Accio, Harry Potter news!
Muggles have been panting on Twitter madly this week trying to find out the official opening day of Universal's Wizarding World of Harry Potter expansion, Diagon Alley, expected in June — one of the most highly anticipated theme park additions of the year.
It didn't help that the Today show announced on Tuesday that it will be broadcasting from Universal Orlando Resort on Friday but canceled the plans late Tuesday. Twitter was abuzz Thursday with sightings of Al Roker at the theme park with a film crew. Universal Orlando and Today are both a part of the NBCUniversal media empire, which is owned by cable giant Comcast.
But Friday morning there was no mention of the theme park as the Today show opened, and Al Roker was in the studio.
The Diagon Alley expansion, estimated by industry analysts at $400 million, will link jolly old London and its wizarding shopping district of Diagon Alley with Harry's school town of Hogsmeade. A Hogwarts Express train will actually connect Universal Orlando's two separate parks, Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. The ride will require visitors to buy tickets to both parks, which can run $136 for a single day for anyone older than 10.
The park is also adding a new thrill ride, called Escape from Gringotts, that promises multisensory thrills similar to the award-winning ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. There will also be lots of shopping and Potter-themed dining experiences, all straight out of the J.K. Rowling's books, such as Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes joke shop and Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions.
Long dominated by Disney, the Central Florida theme park scene was stunned when the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened in 2010. It entranced visitors like a summoning charm and brought a 30 percent bump in attendance for the Islands of Adventures theme park.
Disney still holds the lion's share of the market at 71.3 percent in 2012, but that is down from 74.9 percent in 2009, before Potter first opened, according to reports by Themed Entertainment Association, a market research firm for the theme park industry.
One advantage of Universal delaying the announcement until next week: It could steal the spotlight from a media day Disney has long planned for Thursday to unveil its new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride in the Magic Kingdom.