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'Fast and Furious' ride at Universal Studios Hollywood opens Wednesday

Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson and Jason Statham attend 'Fast and Furious' attraction opening

Four stars of the "Fast and Furious" movie franchise attended a media debut Tuesday of the newest attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood -- a turbocharged upgrade to the iconic studio tour.

"Fast and Furious -- Supercharged" opens to the public Wednesday, adding a fresh element to  the 50-year-old studio tour. The attraction uses 3-D technology and hydraulics to give riders the feeling that they are racing alongside speeding, crashing and exploding cars.

The media debut was attended by "Fast and Furious" stars Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson and Jason Statham. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti also attended the event, saying he hopes that the attraction will help Los Angeles reach a goal of 50 million visitors per year by 2020. The city drew a record 44.2 million visitors in 2014.

The ride is part of a larger $1.6-billion, 25-year upgrade plan for the Universal Studios property that includes the opening last year of "Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem" and the opening next spring of the highly anticipated "Wizarding World of Harry Potter."

Earlier this year, the park also opened a collection of restaurants that resemble the pubs, diners and eateries in "The Simpsons" animated television show.

It is uncommon for a theme park to open new attractions three years in a row but it seems to be paying off for Universal Studios Hollywood.

Attendance at Universal Studios Hollywood jumped 11% last year, compared with an average 2.2% for all theme parks in North America, according to an annual estimate by the Themed Entertainment Assn., a trade group for attraction designers and builders, and the engineering firm Aecom.

In the latest attraction, the Studio Tour tram enters a 65,000-square-foot structure fitted with a 360-degree screen that is nearly 400 feet in length. 3-D images are projected on the screen, giving the illusion that the tram is in a high-speed chase, highlighted by crashes, explosions and gunfire.

To read more about travel, tourism and the airline industry, follow me on Twitter at @hugomartin.

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