The Muggles are coming: Harry Potter boosted attendance at Universal Studios, apps show

Sereena Worino hoists butterbeer while visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood in April.

Sereena Worino hoists butterbeer while visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood in April.

(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

The magic of Harry Potter has boosted attendance at Universal Studios theme parks across the country, with millennials in particular falling under the spell of the boy wizard.

That is the main conclusion from a study of foot traffic data collected by Foursquare, the tech company known for social media and check-in apps used by 50 million people a month.

The study used location data collected by Foursquare apps to determine attendance trends at U.S. theme parks.


Foursquare has already shown it can use its foot traffic data to make spot-on predictions: The company accurately predicted sales of iPhone 6s last year and forecast the magnitude of the sales decline at Chipotle restaurants following an E. coli outbreak.

“In the aggregate, we can see the cultural trends and economic trends — who is winning and who is losing,” Foursquare Chief Executive Jeff Glueck said.

Theme park companies typically don’t release attendance numbers for individual parks, so Foursquare’s location data may be helpful at showing the immediate impact of new attractions.

Foursquare said most app users also supplied biographical data, which helped the tech company determine that millennials (ages 18-34) represented a big share of the surge in attendance at Universal Studios parks in California and Florida.

When the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened April 7, visits to the park jumped 38%, according to Foursquare, with millennials driving about 60% of that traffic. Foursquare said Universal Studios enjoyed a similar surge in attendance from millennials when the Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley opened at Universal Orlando in 2014.

More recently, the Foursquare data showed the July 4 opening of Universal Studios Hollywood’s new Walking Dead attraction increased millennial attendance by five times compared to a typical week.

But Universal Studios’ good fortune doesn’t appear to have come at the expense of its biggest rival, Walt Disney Co. Foursquare data indicate that Universal took visitors from smaller theme parks and water parks rather than Disney parks.

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


Wizarding World of Harry Potter ride may conjure a new path for theme park rides

Here’s the biggest challenge facing Universal Studios when Harry Potter land opens

With Harry Potter land, Universal banks on merchandising magic