AP Photo/Jason Redmond
Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011 | 11:31 p.m.
LOS ANGELES — Universal Studios will spend several hundred million dollars to build a Harry Potter attraction inside its existing Hollywood theme park in hopes of mimicking the success of a similar park in Orlando, Fla.
Executives announced the project Tuesday with much fanfare, spraying confetti and hoisting mugs of the wizardly brew butterbeer.
The attraction, based on the Warner Bros. movies about the boy wizard in J.K. Rowling's novels, will create more than 1,000 jobs at Universal and even more indirectly from an expected boost in tourism, officials said.
At the same time, Orlando's Wizarding World of Harry Potter will get an expansion. Since the Harry Potter attraction opened in Florida in June of last year, company executives have said attendance has jumped by about 50 percent, but did not give raw figures.
"It was a game changer for us and frankly for Orlando," Universal Studios president Ron Meyer told reporters after an announcement at the Universal Studios Hollywood. "The expansion in Orlando will make it that much more of a must-see, and we'll have the same experience here."
Executives did not immediately detail their plans for the Hollywood park, but Meyer said there was enough room to expand.
"We're not landlocked," Meyer said. "We're (on) 400 acres on this lot and 200 of them are still not developed."
Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said he was told that a live concert venue, Gibson Amphitheatre, would be scrapped to make way for the attraction. He said it would open around 2014, but officials did not give a date.
The widely expected announcement happened in typically dressed-up Hollywood style, complete with staff wearing scarves representing the various houses of the fictional wizard's school, Hogwarts, beneath a theater marquee that said, "Hogwarts is coming to Hollywood."
James and Oliver Phelps, who play the twins Fred and George Weasley in the movies, were present, as was California Gov. Jerry Brown. The governor appeared a day after he proposed raising taxes to help make up for the state's projected shortfall.
"Yeah, we have some tough times, but the movie industry keeps hope alive," he said.
Comcast Corp. bought a majority stake in NBCUniversal in January in a $13.5 billion deal. It bought out its 50 percent partner in the Universal Orlando theme park, The Blackstone Group, for $1.03 billion in June.
In the nine months through September, its theme-park revenue rose 33 percent from a year ago to $1.49 billion, while operating cash flow jumped 61 percent to $644 million.
That makes it Comcast's second-most profitable division behind pay TV channels, accounting for just under a quarter of the operating cash flow overall.