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Will Jurassic World Save Disney's Biggest Theme Park Rival?

By Rick Munarriz - Jul 6, 2019 at 12:00PM

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Universal Studios Hollywood opens Jurassic World -- The Ride, and the franchise may get a bigger starring role in Florida soon.

Jurassic World -- The Ride began taking riders on Thursday at Comcast's ( CMCSA -5.29% ) Universal Studios Hollywood. Technical rehearsals should continue through the next few days before an official opening later this summer. The early reviews of the updated water ride are positive, even if the new attraction isn't going to generate the same kind of buzz that Disney ( DIS 0.29% ) did when it opened Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge in late May about an hour's drive away in Anaheim.

Comcast is facing a similar scenario in Central Florida, where its latest ride -- Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure -- has been closed roughly as much as it's been open through its first three weeks of availability. Mechanical snags and weather delays are marring the ride's debut, ruining any kind of momentum it was hoping to gain ahead of next month's arrival of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge to Disney World.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has been a game changer for Comcast's theme parks worldwide, but now it might be time to turn its attention to a franchise that Universal Studios actually has the movie rights for -- Jurassic Park -- to fuel its next phase of expansion. The first step in that direction came on Thursday with the soft opening of Jurassic World -- The Ride in California, but there's a lot more at stake as well as real estate to play with for Comcast in Florida.

A T-Rex busting through the Universal Studios Hollywood entrance.

Image source: Universal Studios Hollywood.

Getting over Hagrid

I finally got to ride Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure last Sunday. It wasn't an optimal experience. The ride had been down most of the day, and it closed just as we got off. The themed family coaster broke down twice while we were riding, leaving us stranded for a couple of minutes at each outage. The on-board audio cut out after the first breakdown, making it more of a trippy experience with toned-down launches. 

There was no point in waiting it out for a reride. Only empty trains were launched after ours, and the ride shut down for the night shortly after that. We were the last June passengers on a ride that was open for barely three hours in a 13-hour operating day. Reviews have been generally positive for those who have been successful in enjoying the ride as intended, but by the time that Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure is running smoothly or toned down to the point where it can run continuously, it will be too late to generate the uptick in turnstile clicks that Comcast was hoping to achieve. 

Comcast has been tightlipped about what will come next. Unlike Disney that doesn't have a problem spelling out its pipeline years ahead of time, Universal Orlando hasn't confirmed what's widely reported to be a Jurassic Park-themed roller coaster that will should open at its Islands of Adventure park next year. It's also widely speculated that Jurassic World will play some kind of role when Comcast announces plans for at least one new park on nearby land in Orlando that will more than double the resort's size.  

The franchise is still hot. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom was last year's highest-grossing theatrical release not put out by Disney. A new installment in the dino-spiked franchise is expected to hit movie theaters in two years. Crummy initial uptime on its Hagrid family coaster doesn't mean that it has milked the last of its Harry Potter partnership, but the time is right to lean more on its Jurassic Park intellectual property now. Universal Studios' theme park future is prehistoric. 

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis – even one of our own – helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.

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