Universal Studios cancels lucrative Halloween Horror Nights as coronavirus cases soar

Key Points
  • Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios in Florida and California have been canceled for 2020.
  • Universal cited operation restrictions linked to the coronavirus pandemic for the cancellation.
  • While Universal Studios in Florida has been able to reopen, the California park remains closed.

In this article

A general view of the atmosphere during Halloween Horror Nights opening at Universal Orlando Resort on September 14, 2018 in Orlando, Florida.
Gerardo Mora | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

Halloween Horror Nights won't be coming to Universal's parks this year. 

The theme park, which has locations in California and Florida, announced Friday that its annual Halloween event has been canceled due to operating restrictions linked to the coronavirus pandemic.

"Universal Studios Hollywood continues to face ongoing business restrictions and uncertainty around its opening timeframe," the park said in a statement. "Universal Orlando Resort will be focusing exclusively on operating its theme parks for daytime guests, using the enhanced health and safety procedures already in place."

While Universal's Orlando-based parks were able to reopen in June, California has not lifted its closure order for amusement parks. It's unclear when Universal Studios Hollywood would be allowed to resume operations and what restrictions may be placed on the business.

Spooky-themed events like Halloween Horror Nights have become incredibly popular with guests in the U.S. and abroad, often padding the bottom line for theme park operators like Universal, Disney and Six Flags. 

Halloween Horror Nights features themed haunted houses, scare zones and live entertainment during the fall. The event takes place in the late afternoon and evenings after traditional park operations have ceased.

Universal saw record results from its Halloween Horror Nights events in 2018. Revenue for Comcast's theme parks division rose 3.5% to $1.5 billion during the fourth quarter that year.

Most parks start their Halloween-themed events in early September. However, as interest in these limited-time-only mazes, haunted house and experiences grows, parks are opening them earlier and earlier.

The cancellation of Halloween Horror Nights is another blow to Universal's theme park business, which has already been forced to limit attendance in order to maintain new safety regulations during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Disclosures: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC.

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