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In the Loop: Here's the biggest challenge facing Universal when Harry Potter land opens

Welcome to another edition of In the Loop, the Los Angeles Times' theme park newsletter. I'm Funland theme park blogger Brady MacDonald, and this week we chronicle the continuing impact of "Blackfish" on SeaWorld, prepare for the crowds at Wizarding World of Harry Potter, take a ride on a virtual reality coaster, taste-test the foods at Knott’s Boysenberry Festival and say farewell to one wooden coaster and hello to another.

SeaWorld

SeaWorld plans to end all orca breeding programs this year in addition to phasing out the theatrical killer whale shows.

"Blackfish" filmmaker Gabriela Cowperthwaite "never imagined" her 2013 documentary on SeaWorld would have such a major effect.

Wizarding World

The biggest challenge facing Universal Studios Hollywood when the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opens will be how to handle the expected crowds.

Meanwhile, Universal has quietly raised daily ticket prices by as much as 20% ahead of the opening of the new themed land on April 7.

Alton Towers

Wired takes a ride on the world’s first fully dedicated virtual reality roller coaster: Galactica at the United Kingdom’s Alton Towers.

Alton Towers reopens the Smiler coaster nine months after an accident on the ride critically injured five people.

Knott’s Berry Farm

I taste a dozen of the food offerings at the Knott’s Berry Farm Boysenberry Festival and somehow avoid turning purple.

Coming and going

Virginia’s Busch Gardens Williamsburg plans to add a wooden roller coaster in 2017 that will let riders decide whether to side with the attacking Vikings or the imperiled villagers.

Demolition begins on Florida’s standing-but-not-operating Dania Beach Hurricane wooden coaster in order to make room for an $800-million shopping center.

New Jersey’s Keansburg boardwalk amusement park plans to reopen the 1930s Spook House dark ride, which was badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

New parks

The international expansion of Six Flags continues with the announcement of plans to build an amusement park and water park in Vietnam by 2020.

Ferrari signs a preliminary deal to build a Ferrari World theme park in China.

And finally

A bird standing on a safety sensor strands 26 riders upside down on a roller coaster for 20 minutes at Happy Valley amusement park in Beijing.

Still need more theme park news? Check out the Los Angeles Times Funland theme park blog on Twitter, FacebookGoogle+ and Instagram. Also feel free to email me with any feedback on the newsletter.

MORE:

32 best new theme park additions of 2016

8 unanswered questions about Disneyland's Star Wars Land

Disneyland 2055: What the future may hold for the original Disney park

Disneyland 1955: 'Walt's Folly' got off to a nightmare start

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