Harry Potter continued to cast his magic wand over Universal Studios Hollywood, while Disneyland Resort had a slightly less magical year in 2016.
With the debut of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter last April, attendance at Universal Studios Hollywood skyrocketed by 986,000 to 8.1 million visitors — a nearly 14 percent leap from the previous year, according to an annual report released Thursday.
The attendance numbers, released by the Themed Entertainment Association and AECOM, are widely accepted; most park operators, which typically don’t release attendance data to the public, are members of the association.
“It was a good year for theme parks in general,” said Brian Sands, vice president of economics for AECOM, a global construction firm that co-produces the report. “Tourism was up in the Southern California market. …
“There were some strong performers, especially Universal Studios Hollywood,” Sand said. “The addition of the new Harry Potter land really pushed attendance as it has done for them in Orlando, and they’ve done a great job leveraging their other intellectual properties such as the Fast and the Furious and Springfield, the Simpson’s-based land.”
in 2015, Disneyland posted record numbers during its 60th-anniversary celebration that included special night-time shows. Last year, a transitional year for the Anaheim park, attendance dipped by 400,000, or nearly 2 percent, to 17.9 million, with Disneyland temporarily closeing several attractions to allow construction to begin on “Star Wars” land.
“It’s pretty normal to fall off the next year,” Sands said of the milestone anniversary celebration. “They’ve also been tremendously active with ‘Star Wars’ land and the openings of Shanghai Disneyland and preparing for the opening for Pandora in Orlando.”
Despite two new attractions — Soarin’ Around the World and Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadster — the adjacent Disney California Adventure’s attendance also went down, by 1 percent, to 9.3 million.
In nearby Buena Park, boosted by revampings of the Ghostrider roller coaster and Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner restaurant, Knott’s Berry Farm’s attendance rose by 3.8 percent to 4 million visitors.
Six Flags Magic Mountain’s new virtual reality roller coaster, the New Revolution, helped bring in an additional 200,000 thrill-seeking visitors for a total of 3.3 million guests in 2016.
Sea World San Diego’s numbers remained flat at 3.5 million, perhaps a sign its attendance has stopped its free fall after the controversial 2013 “Blackfish” documentary that apparently prompted the park to alter its orca killer whale show. Attendance numbers for Legoland in Carlsbad were not disclosed.
Guy Selga Jr., co-author of “The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland,” said though it was an off-year for Disneyland, he expects more people to flock to that park and other Southern California ones in the near, and far off, future.
With “Star Wars” land at Disneyland slated for opening in 2019, other theme parks are positioning themselves on what to do next, too, he said.
“It’ll be interesting to see how other parks respond,” Selga Jr. said. “We’re already seeing some of it. Universal is adding a nighttime show in their Harry Potter land, and Knott’s is getting more into their seasonal festivals and slowly adding new rides. …
“Tourism is growing in Southern California,” Selga Jr. said. “We’re seeing the parks aggressively trying to get more locals in (their) park, and international visitors are going to keep coming.”