Universal parent company Comcast has its eye on expanding its theme parks, which drove record earnings in its media and entertainment division in its last budget year.
The company plans to increase its theme park spending budget by $1.2 billion this year compared with 2022, Comcast President Mike Cavanagh said during a Thursday earnings call.
The money will go toward the construction of NBCUniversal’s third Orlando theme park, Epic Universe, and the development of its recently announced small-scale theme park near Dallas and year-round horror experience in Las Vegas.
The company also disclosed a little more about the layoffs executives mentioned were coming across the company during the previous earnings call in October.
Reports by publications such as Deadline showed these layoffs were “scattered” and relatively small-scale at NBCUniversal, with double-digit layoffs reportedly occurring at NBC News and MSNBC.
Universal’s theme parks also saw some departures as Universal Creative executives took voluntary early retirement packages. TheWrap reported in December that Mike Hightower, named president of Universal Creative in November 2021, and Thierry Coup, Universal Creative’s senior vice president and chief creative officer, were among those who decided to leave.
Thursday’s earnings report showed NBCUniversal’s severance expenses totaled $182 million in the fourth quarter.
Epic Universe is planned to open by summer 2025, executives previously said, and the project is expected to reach its peak spending this year. Universal has not yet provided timelines for the Texas and Las Vegas projects announced on Jan. 11.
In response to a question about NBCUniversal’s future theme park plans, CEO Jeff Shell said the company is “always looking to invest in our parks” domestically and internationally given the division’s success during the pandemic.
He suggested the type of smaller-scale attractions Universal is building in Texas and Las Vegas could be the prototypes for future ventures. These sorts of projects are less expensive to build, and their compact sizes make them well-suited for other locations around the world, Shell added.
“We definitely have our eye towards places expanding internationally, not just domestically, with a number of markets kind of on the docket, and they won’t all be places for a big, giant, primary theme park,” Shell said, without naming specific locations. “Or you might look at different concepts for different markets.”
Universal’s theme parks generated nearly $2.7 billion in adjusted earnings last fiscal year, up from almost $1.3 billion in 2021, the company said.
About $782 million of that came from 2022′s fourth quarter alone, brought on by increased attendance and guest spending at the company’s Orlando, Hollywood and Japan theme parks.
NBCUniversal’s theme park revenue reached $2.1 billion in 2022′s fourth quarter and $7.5 billion last fiscal year. In pre-pandemic 2019, the division’s fourth quarter and fiscal year revenue reached about $1.5 billion and $5.9 billion, respectively.
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