New Potter world to open

Parkgoers on a roller coaster outside the Hogwarts school during a soft opening of The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter theme park in Universal Studios Hollywood.
Parkgoers on a roller coaster outside the Hogwarts school during a soft opening of The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter theme park in Universal Studios Hollywood.PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES • From the cobblestone alleyways to the snow- capped roofs, fans of Harry Potter will be able to immerse themselves in a new Wizarding World attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood and the theme park is betting on their purchasing power.

The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter, opening on April 7, brings to life the quaint town of Hogsmeade from author J.K. Rowling's seven- part Harry Potter books and subsequent films, and it caps off a five-year revamp across the park.

Comcast Corp-owned Universal Studios Hollywood has introduced new rides capitalising on the box- office success of franchises Transformers, Despicable Me and Fast & Furious, as well as expanding The Simpsons attraction.

But the Wizarding World is what the theme park is banking on. Comcast reported a revenue increase of 27 per cent to US$3.3 billion (S$4.5 billion) from its Orlando, Florida, and Hollywood, California locations in its 2015 year-end report.

The company said revenues were bolstered by Orlando's new Harry Potter world, which features two lands, Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, connected by the Hogwarts Express train. An extra ticket is required to visit both lands in one day.

Hollywood's Wizarding World features two rides - one within the castle-like structure of the Hogwarts school and the other an outdoor roller coaster alongside intricately detailed shops and restaurants such as Ollivander's wands and The Three Broomsticks.

Visitors can buy a vast assortment of merchandise, from quills for under US$10 to full Hogwarts school robes from about US$100.

"We've always aimed to be as authentic as we can be, even down to the name of the shops. They're called shops, not stores," said supervising art director Alan Gilmore. "It has to be an experience of stepping into Scotland and England."

Tickets for Universal Hollywood, which cover all the park's attractions, range from US$90 to US$239 for front-of-line passes.

Overall attendance at Universal Hollywood, visited by 6.8 million people in 2014 according to figures from the Themed Entertainment Association, trails far behind Walt Disney Co's Disneyland in Anaheim, Southern California, which drew nearly 17 million that year.

Disneyland is building a new Star Wars land after the success of December's The Force Awakens, the third highest-grossing film worldwide in history.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 30, 2016, with the headline 'New Potter world to open'. Print Edition | Subscribe