NBCUniversal theme parks posted their most profitable fourth quarter ever today, led by Universal Studio Orlando, where Epic Universe is rising.
Universal Studio Hollywood and Japan are close behind and Universal Beijing Resort, which opened last September, will post a modest profit in 2022. “It’s impossible not be excited about our theme park business,” said NBCUniversal chief Jeff Shell on a call with Wall Street analysts after parent Comcast’s earnings.
Revenue approaching $1.9 billion for the division was up nearly 200% from $648 the year before for the last three months of 2021. Ebitda, a kind of operating income, surged to $674 million from $3 million driven by strong growth in domestic attendance and per capita spending in the U.S. and Japan. For full-year 2021, parks revenue rose to $5 billion from $2 billion and swung to income of $1.3 billion from a $477 million loss in 2020 — when parks were closed for a good chunk of the year and capacity constrained for most of the rest of it.
Government mandates and capacity restrictions in Japan eased last quarter. Execs said they’re pleased with Beijing’s first full quarter of operations with guest enthusiasm high but overall attendance limited by restrictions related to Covid-19, which is still creating volatility for the business
However, “We haven’t seen any impact of Omicron in Florida, for example, and very limited impacts we seem to have passed in Hollywood and Japan. Everything seems to be going in the right direction, partly because we continued to invest in our attractions during the pandemic,” said Shell, referencing the Jurassic World VelociCoaster in Orlando, the Secret Life of Pets ride in Hollywood and Super Nintedo World in Japan, “which is doing really well and has led that park to rebound really, really quickly.”
International attendance remains constrained. Historically, in Orlando foreign visitors would generally be in the low 30% range, now that’s at just above 20%, mostly from the U.K. and Europe. Latin America has not returned, “So there’s upside there,” Shell said. And “when travel opens up in China after the Olympics, we are really optimistic on that park.”
Epic Universe, a new park in Orlando, is full steam ahead and will open by summer of 2025. The 750-acre site announced in late summer of 2019 is near the Orange County Convention Center. Surrounding the park will be hotels, shops, restaurants and an entertainment center. It’s the single-largest investment by Comcast/NBCUniversal in its theme park business.
“This is a business where, if you build wonderful attractions, there is pent up demand. We are going to make a fabulous park at Epic and we are going as fast as we can now to make up for lost time,” said Comcast CEO Brian Roberts.
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