Muggles, rejoice! The magic of Hogwarts is coming to Hollywood. Following the unprecedented success of the The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Florida and the The Warner Bros. Studio Tour London: The Making of Harry Potter in the UK, Universal Studios Hollywood is finally getting a Harry Potter land to call its own.
Groundbreaking for the enormous Hollywood expansion is scheduled for late this summer and is expected to last through 2015. Corinne Verdery, Chief Real Estate Development and Planning Officer for NBCUniversal, said in a recent press release: “We look forward to bringing The Wizarding World of Harry Potter to Hollywood, forever changing the face of tourism in Los Angeles.” The expansion will also prove to make Universal Studios Hollywood more competitive as a theme park. Right now, the park is home to only 5 ride attractions. Compared with Universal Orlando Resort’s 50, that is a small number indeed. No doubt, Hollywood is hoping to bank on the wild popularity of Florida’s Wizarding World to give the park a new edge.
To make room, Universal Studios Hollywood is saying goodbye to several of the studio’s older landmarks, most notably the Gibson Amphitheatre, whose lease expires this September. Music fans lament the loss of the venue. Open since 1972, the amphitheatre has seen more than its share of famous guests, from President Obama to Madonna to Fleetwood Mac. It has also hosted major awards shows like the MTV Movie Awards and the Teen Choice Awards, which will regrettably need to find a new home.
However, fans can be consoled by the fact that the new Potter park is sure to have a real smash of a grand opening. When the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened in Florida in 2010, its grand opening celebration actually made author J.K. Rowling cry. Several cast members, including Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint, were in attendance to kick-off the show. All the hundreds of park guests were given wands, and when the stars gave the signal, the wands simultaneously lit up and revealed the Hogwarts castle. To guests’ delight, composer John Williams conducted a live orchestra choreographed specially to a fireworks display and a video projection show on the Hogwarts walls.
In fact, the Hogwarts castle is the only element confirmed to be included in the Hollywood version of the Wizarding World. Most likely, the park will also feature many of the elements in the Florida original. These include the town of Hogsmeade with the ever-popular Honeydukes sweet shop, the Hogwarts Express, Ollivanders wand shop, sickly-sweet Butterbeer, and the signature dark ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. The ride is a roiling, romping adventure using wrap-around projections and animatronics that send guests on encounters with Dementors, the Whomping Willow, giant spiders, dragons, and of course, their favorite characters: Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Some might be a little motion sick afterwards, but for most fans, it’s a dream come true.
It’s impossible to say exactly what will and won’t be included in Hollywood’s park because the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Florida is being expanded as we speak. The expansion is rumored to include Diagon Alley, featuring a new coaster ride inside Gringotts Wizarding Bank. None of this is confirmed, but construction in Universal Studios Florida has already begun and speculations abound.
Hopefully this means that Hollywood’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter will have something new and exciting as well. Whether this might be a glimpse into the Ministry of Magic or a death-defying ride on the Knight Bus or a duel with You-Know-Who, who can say. Personally, if they can make the Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes’ Self-Writing Quills or Ten-Second Pimple Vanishers a gift shop reality, they’ll already have their first pre-registered customer.