Something fast and arguably furious is coming to Universal Orlando. Comcast's (NASDAQ: CMCSK) (NASDAQ:CMCSA) fast-growing theme park resort announced on Tuesday that it will add Fast & Furious: Supercharged to its Universal Studios Florida theme park in 2017.
The thrill ride will replace Disaster: A Major Motion Picture Starring You! -- an earthquake simulator that is one of the park's oldest attractions that will close on Sept. 8 -- and a Beetlejuice stage show that will close at a later date to create room for the new addition. Adding a ride themed to one of Hollywood's most successful action-movie franchises makes sense. A similar attraction was added to the popular tram ride at the original Universal Studios Hollywood park in California.
This is the latest major addition that's in the works for Universal Orlando. We already know that Comcast is adding a King Kong ride to Islands of Adventure, and a new hotel in 2016. It's also updating its iconic Incredible Hulk roller coaster, embracing new vehicles and an enhanced storyline. Now we have Fast & Furious: Supercharged to go along with the Volcano Bay water park opening in 2017. This flurry of expansion activity comes hot off the heels of the wildly successful Diagon Alley addition that opened last year.
That's a lot of action at a resort with half as many theme parks, and a lot fewer on-site hotel rooms than larger rival Walt Disney's (NYSE:DIS) Disney World, and the investments have been paying off with big upticks in turnstiles clicks. Comcast's resort attracted a combined 16.4 million guests to Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure last year according to industry tracker Themed Entertainment Association, up 8% since the prior year. Disney attracted a more impressive 51.5 million people across its four Disney World theme parks, but that was just 3% ahead of the prior year. Attendance growth at Universal Orlando has also been accelerating in recent quarters.
Disney's been phoning it in, and Universal Orlando has been taking advantage of the House of Mouse's complacency to ramp up its offerings. The good news for Disney shareholders and folks planning future Disney World vacations is that the family entertainment giant is starting to wake up. It will just take time. An Avatar-themed expansion opens at Animal Kingdom come 2017, and Disney's Hollywood Studios will get Star Wars and Toy Story lands at some point after that.
Whether it's a matter of Disney's slow and meticulous pace, or its lavish intentions, it seems as if major additions get announced several years before they ultimately open. We've been hearing about Avatar since 2011. However, with Universal Orlando and new International Drive attractions going up, Disney can't afford to rest on its mouse-eared laurels. It's Disney that now has to be fast and furious. It's Disney that now needs to be supercharged.