During the 4th Quarter Comcast Earnings call this morning, executives spoke about the success of the company’s theme park division, reporting a quarter in Orlando that was the most profitable since the company has taken over the Universal parks.
The call also focused on upcoming projects for the company, including the construction of Universal’s Epic Universe, their newest theme park for Orlando. They say they are hoping to have the new theme park open by the summer of 2025.
Today’s earnings call started with extremely good news for Universal Parks and Resorts. “Demand was especially high in Orlando,” according to Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, “which had the best quarter in the company’s history for any quarter.”
Brian continued during the introduction, stating “I’m even more excited for our newest theme park, Epic Universe, which is in construction as we speak. Hollywood and Osaka are also on a great trajectory, and we just opened Universal Beijing, which will provide a more meaningful contribution in the years to come.”
The call went on to go over specific details for earnings in the theme park division:
Last at Theme Parks, revenue increased by $1.2 billion to $1.9 billion and we generated EBITDA of $674 million, which was our highest on record for any fourth quarter, driven by strong momentum in the U.S. and Japan.
At our U.S. parks we benefited from strong domestic attendance, and per caps, that were above pre-pandemic levels. At Universal Studios Japan we saw improved attendance levels as government mandated capacity restrictions were eased during the quarter.
At our newly opened park, Universal Beijing, we are pleased with our first full quarter of operations, where the level of demand from our guests was high, but overall attendance was impacted by Covid related restrictions. Despite that, Beijing’s EBITDA was essentially break even in the quarter, and we anticipate modest profitability in our first full year of operation in 2022.
For total theme parks, while we have been very pleased with the pace of our recovery, particularly in the U.S., we recognize the business is subject to variability related to the pandemic, which tends to be more pronounced at our international parks.
The company believes that continuing to invest in the parks, and opening new attractions despite to complications of the ongoing pandemic was instrumental in this continued recovery, saying:
“Everything is going in the right direction… and part of that, by the way, is because we continued to invest in our attractions during the pandemic… with VelociCoaster in Orlando and Pets in Hollywood, and Nintendo, which is doing really well in Japan…”
While international travel has not fully returned yet, they are optimistic for the rest of 2022, saying “All signs are pointed up in our theme park business.” Jeff Shell, NBCUniversal CEO, says they haven’t seen any impact of the Omicron variant affecting theme park business in Florida.
As the earnings call went on, specific questions and comments were made about Orlando’s upcoming theme park, Epic Universe, which is under construction now.
The company says it expects to have a capital expenditure “related to the construction of Epic Universe to be up around $1 billion” in 2022. That would be similar to what was spent on Universal Beijing’s construction in 2019, which was $1.1 billion.
The head of NBCUniversal says that the Epic Universe project “is full steam ahead,” and that they expect to open the park by summer 2025 at the latest.
“Epic is full steam ahead. I was down there a few weeks ago and the construction is going really well… We expect that park to open ’25, and certainly in time for the summer of ’25. We will get back to you when we get more granular on the date.”
It sounds like the company understands that there is pent up demand from guests wishing to visit theme parks from around the world, and they want to be ready to offer them something new as soon as possible.
“If you build wonderful attractions, there is pent up demand, and we are going to make a fabulous park at Epic. We are full steam—we’re going as fast as we can now to make up for lost time.”
Shortly after the earnings call, the official Universal Orlando Resort’s Twitter account tweeted “Summer 2025,” but without any context:
Summer 2025 🤩
— Universal Orlando Resort (@UniversalORL) January 27, 2022
Epic Universe was originally planned to open sooner, but work was paused temporarily due to the pandemic. This is the first time that the company has acknowledged the year 2025, let alone a summer time frame, as a possible opening date.
See our previous construction update for Epic Universe, or watch the video below. You can learn more about all of the planned and rumored attractions for Epic Universe in our Everything We Know breakdown. And stay tuned for continuing coverage of the new theme park as it happens.