Comcast released their 4th quarter and full year 2021 results and there was good news all around, but especially for Universal Parks & Resorts. The biggest news about the theme parks from the question and answer section of the presentation was all about Epic Universe! The good news for fans is Epic Universe is “full steam ahead.” Construction is going really well, and Comcast/NBCUniversal expects Universal’s next theme park to open in 2025, certainly in time for the summer of 2025.
Comcast executives were part of the earnings call including Brian Roberts, Chairman & CEO of Comast, and Jeff Shell, CEO of NBCUniversal. When talking about the parks they said it’s, “impossible not to be excited about theme park business.” It was a great year for the parks and a great 4th quarter with no impact from the COVID-19 Omicron variant in Florida and very limited impact in Hollywood and Japan. Part of the success was attributed to the investment in attractions during the pandemic like Jurassic World VelociCoaster in Universal Orlando, The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash in Universal Studios Hollywood, and Super Nintendo World in Universal Studios Japan.
Keeping that in mind, it’s no surprise to hear that there were some regrets surrounding Epic Universal and pausing construction. When talking about Epic Universe, it sounded like Roberts chimed in to say, “If I look back over COVID, one of the things I wish we could redo is slowing down Epic.” Obviously it made financial sense to halt construction, but no one saw the pent up demand having such a huge impact on the business.
“If you build wonderful attractions there is pent up demand, and we’re going to make a fabulous park at Epic, and we’re full steam.. we’re going as fast as we can to make up for lost time.”
Overall, theme parks delivered its most profitable fourth quarter on record, driven by strong growth in domestic guest attendance and spending per guest at the parks in the United States and Japan. International guest attendance at the parks remained constrained due to COVID-19. Specifically with Florida, international attendance has returned with guests from the U.K. and Europe, but not at pre-pandemic levels due to Latin American guests not returning. However, domestic attendance in general is above pre-pandemic levels.