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Universal Studios Hollywood breaks attendance record and reaches capacity for the first time

The new year started off well for Universal Studios Hollywood, as the theme park broke attendance records Monday and was forced to close its gates for the first time in the park’s history.

Although the theme park doesn’t report daily attendance numbers, industry experts estimate that the park welcomed more than 40,000 visitors Monday — so many that the park’s gates were closed to new customers just after noon.

The park had been reporting gradual attendance growth since it launched a $1.6-billion investment surge in 2014. The funding from the park’s parent company, Comcast Corp., has paid for several new attractions, including the Fast and Furious: Supercharged ride and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter expansion.

This summer, Universal Studios Hollywood opened a permanent haunted maze based on the AMC series “The Walking Dead.”

The park also has announced a partnership with Nintendo to add attractions based on the Japanese company’s video game characters, such as Super Mario Bros. and Donkey Kong.

Park attendance grew over this latest Christmas season until it broke park records New Year’s Day and surpassed that record Monday. 

“The epic transformation on our property has had a remarkable impact on Universal Studios Hollywood, which was evident by our record-breaking attendance over the holidays,” said Karen Irwin, president and chief operating officer of Universal Studios Hollywood.

Universal Studios Hollywood drew slightly more than 7 million visitors in 2015, a 4% increase over the previous year, according to an estimate by the Themed Entertainment Assn. and Los Angeles engineering firm Aecom.

Based on that estimate, the park was drawing an average of about 20,000 visitors a day in 2015, a number that presumably rose in 2016. 

The wait times Monday afternoon ranged from 25 minutes for Jurassic Park — The Ride to two hours for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, according to park visitors who posted photos of the wait times online.

In recent days, the park closed its WaterWorld stunt show for renovations until April.

hugo.martin@latimes.com

To read more about the travel and tourism industries, follow @hugomartin on Twitter.

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