Revenue in Universal’s theme park division was down 80 percent year-over-year for the three-month period from July through September — which is actually an improvement from the second quarter of 2020

While Universal’s Orlando and Japan theme parks were open for the entire quarter, capacity is still limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Universal Studios Hollywood remains closed. All of that added up to a $203 million loss in the theme park division for the third quarter, compared to $731 million in earnings for the same period in 2019. 

Still, Comcast executives remain bullish on Universal parks and preached cautious optimism about their eventual recovery.

“Parks are a great business,” said NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell. “When the world return, and people get sick of being in their house, I really feel that parks are going to be a very strong business. Nobody can tell the pace of how that’s going to go, given what’s happening, but so far, we’re rebounding fairly nicely in Florida and Japan.”

Comcast executives did not address the ongoing war of words with the state of California over its stringent theme park reopening guidelines. However, Comcast chief financial officer Mike Cavanagh did say the company “expects the theme park business to break-even at some point in 2021, independent of what occurs with Universal Studios Hollywood.”

Disney changing boarding group system for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance

For the first time, guests who want to ride Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance won’t have to be inside Disney’s Hollywood Studios to reserve a spot in its virtual boarding group system. 

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the marquee attraction of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge was difficult to experience; guests had to be inside the park by the official opening time to reserve a boarding group, with all spots gone within minutes. Since Disney World reopened in July, there were multiple windows to reserve a group, but the limited capacity on attractions meant there were fewer spots to go around. 

That’s now changing. Starting Nov. 3, Disney will allow guests with a park reservation for Disney’s Hollywood Studios to reserve a boarding group starting at 7 a.m., which Disney said can be done “before you leave your Disney resort hotel, or wherever else nearby you might be at that time.” Whether this means guests could be off Disney property is not made clear. 

For those who miss the 7 a.m. window, the virtual queue will reopen again at 2 p.m. However, guests will have to be inside the theme park to take advantage of this second boarding group opportunity. 

You can read Theme Park Tribune’s review of Rise of the Resistance here.  

Christmas Town at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay begins Nov. 20

The holiday season has almost arrived at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.

The park will kick off its annual Christmas Town even with a new preview weekend on Nov. 14 and 15, and then daily from Nov. 20 through Jan. 3, 2021. 

As with everything theme park-related in the COVID era, there will be some changes to limit the spread of COVID-19. Along with the same face mask and physical distancing requirement that Busch Gardens has implemented since reopening, Christmas shows like “Christmas on Ice” (running outdoors this year) and “Elmo’s Christmas Wish” will feature physically distant seating. 

The event will also feature a new “Spark the Night” fireworks show offered on select nights, with physically distant viewing available on the park’s festival field.

More Theme Park News:
Fun Spot Orlando fails 4th inspection on face mask enforcement; SeaWorld, Disney’s Magic Kingdom pass
Will California theme parks sue over reopening guidelines? ‘Any options are viable’
Legoland Florida adding new ski show, 4-D movie, stage show for its 10th anniversary