Nearly two years after expansion plans were first announced, the Rank Organizaton PLC of Britain has announced that it has reached an agreement with MCA Inc. to spend at least $2 billion to turn the companies' Universal Studios Florida theme park in Orlando, Fla., into "a major resort destination."
As part of the expansion, which will quadruple the size of the park from about 200 acres to more than 800, there will be another theme park, a 5,000-seat movie complex, a new golf course and more shops and restaurants. The expanded resort will enable Universal to compete with the much-larger Walt Disney World, which is also in Orlando.Rank owns Universal Studios Florida in a joint venture with MCA.
The new resort, to be called Universal City Florida, will feature an island theme park with rides based on "Jurassic Park" and other well-known movies by the director Steven Spielberg. In addition, in an arrangement with Marvel Entertainment Group, the park will feature characters from the Marvel comic book series, including Spider-Man, X-Men and The Incredible Hulk.
The expansion plans come on the heels of reports that indicate an upswing of visitors to the Orlando area after a few stagnant years. In 1994, nearly 34 million people came to the Orlando area for business and recreation, about 2 percent more than in 1993.
The original Universal Studios Florida park, built in 1990 for about $690 million, has done better than many expected. In 1994, attendance increased to about 6.4 million and revenue exceeded $317 million, according to the Rank Organization.
The Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World has been the No. 1 or No. 2 theme park in the world for the last three years, with attendance estimated at more than 11 million last year, according to Amusement Business, a trade magazine.
Other tourist attractions in the Orlando area include Epcot Center, Disney-MGM Studios and Sea World of Florida.