The parent company of Universal Orlando on Friday reported rising attendance and guest spending at its theme parks, fueled in part by last month's long-awaited opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
General Electric Co. said attendance and per-capita guest spending grew by single-digit percentages at Universal Parks & Resorts during the second quarter of the year. Operating profit at the parks declined during the period, though GE said that was largely due to increased marketing spending to promote the openings of Wizarding World in Orlando and a new King Kong attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood in California.
"Both of those are off to fantastic starts," GE Vice Chairman and Chief Financial Officer Keith Sherin said during a conference call with analysts.
It is an encouraging sign for Universal's theme parks, which have been badly bruised by the global recession and travel slowdown. Attendance at Universal Orlando, for instance, shrank 12 percent in 2009 — to 9.3 million visitors — and another 10 percent during the first three months of this year.
Though Wizarding World is drawing enormous crowds to Universal's Islands of Adventure theme park this summer, its impact on the resort's second-quarter financial performance was likely somewhat limited. That's because the project formally opened June 18, just 12 days before the end of the quarter, though it was in a preliminary soft-opening phase for several weeks before that.
Fairfield, Conn.-based GE co-owns Universal Orlando through its NBC Universal media division. Private-equity giant Blackstone Group owns the other half of the resort.
GE did not provide further details about its theme parks, which represent just a sliver of the industrial conglomerate's total business. A more in-depth report is expected from Universal Orlando itself in the coming weeks.