Universal parks return to pre-pandemic attendance levels

'Our bookings going forward looking at the summer are at historic high levels.'

Universal’s theme parks continue to be a comeback story two years after the pandemic shut them down.

Universal’s parks in Orlando and California are back to the same attendance levels pre-pandemic, Comcast executives said Thursday as the cable giant released its first-quarter earnings that showed theme parks’ revenue jumping by $941 million to $1.6 billion.

The company, which didn’t stop building new rides during the pandemic, touted its major investments to keep bringing visitors back and generating more big returns.

“Our investments are significantly expanding the potential for the theme parks business, which will remain an important and exciting growth engine for years to come,” Comcast CEO Brian Roberts told investors during a Thursday morning earnings call.

Comcast is ramping up its Epic Universe construction with costs up $1 billion year-over-year, the company said.

Epic Universe will be Universal’s third theme park in Orlando opening by the summer of 2025. Anchoring the park will be Nintendo Land and other key attractions, the company’s leaders said Thursday, although they didn’t provide further details on what rides visitors will experience.

The parks are posting strong attendance even though international tourists are slow to return to the United States. The government has lifted restrictions on international flights but some people are still hesitant to travel during the pandemic.

“International visitation at domestic parks is less than half of what it would normally be this time of the year for Orlando and California,” said Jeff Shell, CEO of NBCUniversal, Universal’s parent company. “And even given that, our bookings going forward looking at the summer are at historic high levels.”

In Orlando, Universal opened a new roller coaster last year which executives say will continue to draw attendance. The Jurassic World VelociCoaster has won rave reviews for its thrills and air time.

“We’ve invested in our attractions all during the pandemic, so international visitors who have delayed coming to our parks have a lot to experience when travel starts picking up,” Shell said.

Comcast was the first to release its latest earnings, with SeaWorld Entertainment and the Walt Disney Company scheduled to release theirs in May.

Gabrielle Russon

Gabrielle Russon is an award-winning journalist based in Orlando. She covered the business of theme parks for the Orlando Sentinel. Her previous newspaper stops include the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Toledo Blade, Kalamazoo Gazette and Elkhart Truth as well as an internship covering the nation’s capital for the Chicago Tribune. For fun, she runs marathons. She gets her training from chasing a toddler around. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @GabrielleRusson .


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