Here’s the biggest challenge facing Universal Studios when Harry Potter land opens
It doesn’t matter that Adrienne Aipia has already visited Harry Potter attractions in London (once) and Orlando, Fla., (twice).
When the latest version opens April 7 at Universal Studios Hollywood, the marketing manager from Los Angeles plans to squeeze into the replica of Hogwarts Castle with the rest of the expected throng.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the faces and feeling the energy on opening day,” Aipia said.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is likely to be the most popular attraction to ever open at the Southern California park, if the multitudes at similar Harry Potter hangouts at Universal Studios in Orlando and Japan are any indication.
And it doesn’t take a wizard to divine that the biggest challenge for Universal Studios executives will be managing the congestion when fans storm the six-acre simulacrum to buy wands and robes and queue up for a high-tech flying ride.
The amusement park industry pioneered the art of crowd management, with wrap-around configurations obscuring line length and entertainment to kill time. Technology allows for wait estimates and come-back-later options.
Universal Studios has already adopted several crowd-easing strategies, including the installation of a virtual queuing system at the entrance of the Harry Potter land, enabling guests who show up during congested periods to make an appointment to return when crowds are lighter.
To encourage parkgoers to visit during off-peak days, the park has instituted a new pricing strategy that offers discounts of up to $20 on daily tickets to guests who visit on low-demand days, such as Tuesdays and Wednesdays in the fall. The new system lets the park manage the number of tickets sold on any specific day.
“The goal is not to have the whole crowd arrive at the Harry Potter attraction at the same time,” Bogosian said.
Universal Studios representatives are loath to acknowledge potential crowding let alone how the park would mitigate it. But they noted heavy investments on infrastructure upgrades, including two new parking structures, a widening project for the street that enters the park and a pedestrian bridge from the Metro Red Line station to the park entrance.
At least one new attraction has built-in crowd management strategies.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, the featured attraction, is a motion-based ride that uses 3-D technology and moving ride vehicles to make riders feel as if they are flying along with Harry Potter, dodging dragons and the dark lord Voldemort. The ride’s line snakes through Hogwarts Castle so that visitors are entertained during the wait by authentic movie props, 3-D videos and paintings that come to life.
The most advanced crowd management techniques are often invented by theme parks and replicated later for use at sporting events, museums and music concerts, according to industry experts.