Something interesting happened in the world of theme parks this week...
Something that is not about Disney, but all about it. At least when it comes to inserting the Marvel
characters into the many parks that the Mouse
owns or co-owns. Universal Studios
owns Universal Hollywood
outright, but the other Universal Studios
theme parks that it owns are co-ventures; even Universal Studios Orlando
. That theme park is co-owned by the Blackstone Group
. They own a fifty percent equity in the two theme park resort and are now looking
to sell their share. With the success of "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
," the group looks to capitalize on its investment and get a premium for the shares that it has.
One of the interesting things about the agreement between Uni
and Warner Bros.
is that a change in ownership will trigger a clause in the rights to that franchise, which could mean they could lose it or have to renegotiate the original agreement for a much higher fee. Now, realistically, Universal is coming off their best year ever with attendance and spending, so there is no way the Uni Suits are going to plan on giving away what has helped turn their parks into destinations that is usually only reserved for Walt Disney World
. They will do what they need to do to keep them inside the park, which means a renegotiation if necessary.
That said, it makes one wonder what the agreement that Universal Orlando has with Marvel is like. Is it similar? Because if it is, this could be the out that Disney would look for to wrestle control back of properties that it would love to exploit at its own parks; particularly those just a little ways down the road from IOA
. You can bet that the Mouse's lawyers will be looking at every line of the agreement for wiggle room, and unlike TWWOHP
, there would be no reason to settle. Any renegotiation by Disney would be set at a level meant to make such a renegotiation prohibitively expensive. That way, the Walt Disney Company
could walk away with the rights to the properties it bought in 2009 and be able to start planning attractions or even parks without fear of some form of litigation nightmare.
Universal would have to come up with a way to retheme the attractions to other characters that it owns or someone else would be willing to license to them. If I was Warner Bros., I'd consider this a great opportunity to offer the DC Comics
properties instead. It'd be a major upgrade from Six Flags
and branded characters that would fit into the theme parks need for highly visible franchises. Couldn't you see that Spider-Man attraction being retooled for Batman or Superman? Maybe retheme that Hulk coaster to the Green Lantern?
So, depending on how good Marvel's lawyers were, we may be seeing men wearing their underwear on the outside of their clothes sooner than we thought.