Universal Studios Florida is a theme park located in Orlando, Florida. Opened on June 7, 1990, the park's theme is the entertainment industry, in particular movies and television. Universal Studios Florida inspires its guests to "ride the movies", and it features numerous attractions and live shows. The park is one component of the larger Universal Orlando Resort.
In 2013, the park hosted an estimated 7.06 million guests, ranking it the eighth-most visited theme park in the United States, and ranking it sixteenth worldwide.
From its inception in 1982, Universal Studios Florida was designed as a theme park and a working studio. It was also the first time that Universal Studios had constructed an amusement park "from the ground up." However, the proposed project was put on hold until 1986, when a meeting between Steven Spielberg, a co-founder for the park, and Peter N. Alexander prompted for the creation of a Back to the Future simulator ride in addition to the already planned King Kong based ride. Spielberg had also noticed how competitive the park could be if it could compete with the nearby Walt Disney World and Seaworld.
A major component of the original park in Hollywood is its studio tour, which featured several special-effects exhibits and encounters built into the tour, such as an attack by the great white shark from the film Jaws. For its Florida park, Universal Studios took the concepts of the Hollywood tour scenes and developed them into larger, stand-alone attractions. As an example, in Hollywood, the studio tour trams travel close to a shoreline and are "attacked" by Jaws before they travel to the next part of the tour. In Florida, guests entered the "Jaws" attraction and would board a boat touring the fictitious Amity Harbor, where they encountered the shark, then exited back into the park at the conclusion of the attraction. Universal Studios Florida originally had a Studio Tour attraction that visited the production facilities, but that tour has since been discontinued.
Previous slogans for Universal Studios Florida were: See the Stars. Ride the Movies. (1990–1998); No one makes believe like we do! (1990–1998); Ride the Movies (1998–2008); Jump into the Action (2008–2012). Experience The Movies (2012–2015) The current slogan is Vacation Like You Mean It (2013–present; along with Islands of Adventure as Universal Orlando Resort).
Land clearing takes place on the swamp land purchased by MCA/Universal that would hold the park.
Universal Studios Florida is announced at a press conference on the Hollywood property, with a planned opening date of December 1989.
Universal Studios Florida's opening date is delayed from December, 1989 to May 1, 1990. Shortly following, MCA/Universal releases a video detailing the future park, which stars Christopher Lloyd as the Universal character Doc Brown interacting with the various attractions at the Florida park. Universal Studios allows guests to witness the production of television shows and motion pictures in the Florida park's soundstages in middle 1988, while the rest of the studio/park is still under construction.
On January 31, Universal Studios Florida's opening date is again delayed from May 1, 1990 to June 7, 1990. Universal Studios Florida begins soft openings for the general public in late May. Many of the park's attractions are not yet open at the time, and still under testing. Universal Studios Florida is officially opened with a grand opening style ceremony on June 7. The park opens with five themed areas: The Front Lot (entrance area), Production Central, New York, San Francisco/Amity, Expo Center, Hollywood as well as a Lagoon located in the center of the park. The Front Lot and Production Central areas are referred to as "In Production", the New York section is referred to as "Now Shooting", the San Francisco and Amity sections are referred to as "On Location" and the Expo Center area is referred to as "The World of CineMagic Center". Nickelodeon Studios opens on the same day and there is a grand opening ceremony hosted by Marc Summers. Due to massive technical problems with the original Kongfrontation, Earthquake: The Big One and Jaws rides, Universal begins a temporary voucher service to allow guests to re-visit the studio/park when the attractions are operating. Jaws is temporarily closed by Universal on September 30 due to persistent major technical problems. During the shut-down, Universal sues the original designer of the Jaws ride, Ride & Show Engineering, and hires Totally Fun Company to create a re-designed version of most of the ride.
Jaws is re-opened, with many scenes altered. MCA/Universal announces plans to expand Universal Studios Florida into the Universal City, Florida resort complex, including a second theme park and multiple hotels.
Universal announces that Ghostbusters Spooktacular will be replaced by Twister...Ride it Out, with a planned opening date of Spring 1998 Universal Studios announces that the sole Studio park will be expanded into the Universal Studios Escape, including the Islands of Adventure park, Universal CityWalk Orlando and multiple hotels. The Islands of Adventure Preview Center opens in the New York area, replacing The Screen Test Home Video Adventure. It is meant to give guests a preview of the up-coming Islands of Adventure park, as well as expansion of the Studio park into the Universal Studios Escape resort.
The expansion begins as the original open parking lot for Universal Studios Florida is demolished and replaced by CityWalk and a parking garage complex. Universal delays the opening of Twister...Ride it Out from March, 1998 to May 4, 1998 out of respect for the 42 deaths caused by a recent El Nino outbreak of tornadoes in the central Florida area. Twister...Ride it Out opens in the New York area, replacing Ghostbusters Spooktacular. A new area of the park, Woody Woodpecker's Kidzone, is officially opened, holding the attractions Curious George Goes to Town, StarToons and the previously opened Fievel's Playland, E.T. Adventure, Animal Actors Stage and A Day in the Park with Barney; CityWalk opens outside of the park.
Universal Express Plus is introduced, replacing Universal Express. Nickelodeon Studios closes on April 30 after nearly 15 years. Fear Factor Live opens, replacing The Wild Wild Wild West Stunt Show. Universal Studios Florida celebrates its 15th anniversary.
The opening date for Transformers The Ride is announced for June 20, 2013. Details of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter expansion are officially announced. Details for the new Simpsons Land are announced and expected to open in the summer of 2013. Transformers: The Ride officially opens in the Production Central area replacing Soundstage 44. Simpsons Fast Food Boulevard (renamed Springfield U.S.A.) concludes its expansion as it includes one new ride: Kang and Kodos Twirl 'n' Hurl.
The previous icon of the Jaws ride is still a popular photo spot.
Like all theme parks, attractions are sometimes closed due to aging and replaced with more contemporary attractions. Universal has seen this happen several times. Some notable closures include Kongfrontation, Back to the Future: The Ride, The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera and Jaws. The closures of Kongfrontation, Back to the Future, and Jaws have been given homages by the park to honor veteran visitors who revered the former rides.
The large area that once housed the Jaws attraction was reconstructed to make way for the new Diagon Alley, part of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction. As an homage to the Jaws attraction that was available to so many visitors of the years, references to Jaws are sprinkled throughout the new Diagon Alley. One being a set of shark jawbones appearing behind the herbs and potions of Mr. Mulpepper's Apothecary.
Universal Studios Florida features seven themed areas all situated around a large lagoon. In 2012, this lagoon was the site of Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular: 100 Years of Movie Memories, a thematic display that showcased scenes from various Universal films, featuring lasers, projectors and fountains, and pyrotechnics.
The seven surrounding themed areas, clockwise from the entrance, are Production Central, New York, San Francisco, London/Diagon Alley, World Expo, Woody Woodpecker's Kidzone and Hollywood. Each area features a combination of rides, shows, attractions, character appearances, dining outlets and merchandise stores. The newest area, based on Harry Potter's Diagon Alley, was added to the park in the July 2014. The San Francisco area closed in 2015 and construction will begin for L.A, set to open in 2017.
The area is also home to a variety of dining outlets and merchandise shops. Food and beverage items can be purchased from Beverly Hills Boulangerie or Universal Studios' Classic Monsters Cafe while merchandise can be bought from a variety of themed stores including Universal Studios Store, Studio Sweets, It's a Wrap!, Super Silly Stuff, Shrek's Ye Olde Souvenir Shoppe, and Transformers: Supply Vault.
New York features several dining outlets: Finnegan's Bar and Grill and Louie's Italian Restaurant which were designed for the park as well as Starbucks Coffee and Ben & Jerry's which are commercial franchises. Within New York exist two merchandise shops: Sahara Traders and Rosie's Irish Shop. The first two feature merchandise related to attractions within this area.
Sometime after June 2005 the optical illusion of the Space Shuttle was removed from this part of the park. As you headed towards World Expo from San Francisco/Amity it was one of the many designated photo spots throughout the park. There was a hanging platform that you would place your camera on and take the picture. The Shuttle would look as though it was sitting on the top of expired park ride Back to the Future: The Ride.
live stage show that shows guests how horror film special effects are created. Before the main show guests experience a pre-show walk-through of set pieces and props used in various horror movies. The pre-show currently houses a character appearance by Hellboy from Hellboy II: The Golden Army. In August 2008, a section of the pre-show lobby was included to contain material from Halloween Horror Nights which includes some concept art, and a timeline of park map covers dating from its debut year in 1991 as Fright Nights. Both of these attractions opened in 1990.
Hollywood's two dining outlets are recreations of actual Hollywood outlets. Schwab's Pharmacy and Mel's Drive-In offer guests a variety of food and beverage options. A third outlet, named Cafe La Bamba, operates seasonally. Guests can purchase Terminator merchandise from Cyber Image and magic-related items from Theatre Magic.
Universal Studios Florida is also a working production studio. It has been used for several movies, television series, commercials, music videos, and other events throughout its history. It was also the home of Nickelodeon Studios, the production location for Nickelodeon from 1990 until 2005. In September 2008, Nickelodeon returned to Universal Studios Florida for the production of "My Family's Got GUTS". In January 2009, the Powerball lottery drawings moved from Iowa; they are conducted and made at Universal Studios Florida, coinciding with the Florida Lottery's entry into the Powerball game. In July 2010, RTL Group's Family Feud was filmed at the studios, coinciding with the show's debut of new host Steve Harvey.
Soundstages 18 and 19 at the park were home to Nickelodeon Studios prior to the debut of the Blue Man Group show.
Universal Studios Florida is home to six soundstages that are available for a variety of purposes. A seventh soundstage, Stage 18, was one of the former Nickelodeon Studios soundstages; it was redesigned in 2007 as the Sharp Aquos Theatre, where the Blue Man Group has performed since June 2007. The soundstage and the core production facility were made a permanent part of Universal CityWalk. Soundstage 21 has been used from 2004-2013 for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) which has produced its weekly television program, Impact Wrestling from there, and has aired some of its pay-per-view events from this location since November 2004; it is referred to as the "Impact Wrestling Zone" for this reason. TNA also uses soundstage 24 for backstage use. The remaining soundstages are available for rent by other production companies. During Halloween Horror Nights, the soundstages are occasionally used for the event's haunted houses.
Grad Bash and Gradventure are two separate events held in April and May at the park. Grad Bash is an event for graduating high school senior classes who can gather for an exclusive, all-night party at Universal Orlando Resort featuring the 2 parks best attractions, live performances by some of the most popular musicians, dance parties with DJs, and pre-parties live at The Universal Music Plaza Stage in the Production Central area. After Disney's retirement of Grad Nite, Grad Bash was held for five nights in 2012. Gradventure is similar, but is designed for junior high/middle school graduating students.
Halloween Horror Nights turns the park into a giant haunted playground, including scare zones, numerous haunted houses and special themed shows. The event is run annually in late September, October, and early November.
Several attractions in Universal Studios Florida allow guests to utilize Express Pass. This pass admits users to a separate line for the attraction, which is given priority status when boarding. Express Pass is not a virtual queuing service. Instead, passholders may enter the "Universal Express" line whenever they wish. This pass is not included with park admission.