Wizarding World comes to West Coast after Florida success

Hollywood is getting its own version of “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.”

Universal Studios and Warner Bros. have agreed to pony up around $200 million to build a second version of the theme-park attraction that opened June 18, 2010, at Islands of Adventure in Orlando.

The themed area has turned into a top draw not only for U but the Orlando area, with tourists flocking to Islands of Adventure, boosting ticket and merchandise sales. NBCUniversal now wants its Hollywood park to benefit from a similar attraction just as Disneyland is about to open “Cars Land” next summer.

Because of “Wizarding World’s” instant success, the first question was when Universal would expand the park in Florida, given the amount of land the company owns there. The attraction features replicas of Hogwarts Castle and Hogsmeade village as seen in the films and includes rides like “Flight of the Hippogriff” and “Dragon Challenge.” Instead, U and WB chose to build a second “Wizarding World” in Hollywood.

Where, exactly, the attraction will be housed, is a key question.

Universal Studios Hollywood is much smaller than Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Orlando, limiting designers on just where new attractions can be added. The Hollywood park is currently building a 3D ride based on Paramount’s “Transformers” franchise that will open next spring on its lower lot, replacing the former “Backdraft” attraction. Older attractions would likely have to be cleared out to make room for the new Potter attraction.

U spent as much as $265 million to build “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.” A 2015 opening date is being eyed for the Hollywood version.

Attraction boosted attendance to Islands of Adventure by 20% after six months and 41% after a year, the most since June 2004. More than 7 million people are estimated to having visited the “Wizarding World of Harry Potter” alone since its opening.

WB controls the licensing rights to the “Harry Potter” film franchise and receives royalties from merchandise sold in the park. NBCUniversal operates Universal Studios, which has been eager to lock down attractions based on top tentpoles.

U had already been eyeing its other overseas parks for a new “Wizarding World,” including a planned park in South Korea.

The timing of the Potter park expansion, which requires approval from J.K. Rowling, comes as WB recently released its eight-film collection of all of the “Harry Potter” films on Blu-ray.

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