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Universal cancels Halloween Horror Nights this year due to the coronavirus

For the first time in 30 years, the wildly popular after-hours scare fest in Orlando won't go on.
Haunted houses like this one at Universal Studios in 2019 won't be going up this year as the Orlando theme park cancels the wildly popular event held in September and October.
Haunted houses like this one at Universal Studios in 2019 won't be going up this year as the Orlando theme park cancels the wildly popular event held in September and October. [ SEBASTIAN ROJAS | Universal Orlando ]
Published Jul. 24, 2020|Updated Jul. 24, 2020

Horror fans got their hopes up when Universal Orlando announced it was holding auditions via Zoom for this year’s edition of Halloween Horror Nights. But on Friday, the theme park announced that the wildly popular after-hours collection of haunted houses and scare zones has been canceled for 2020.

HHN is just the latest event to be scrubbed by the coronavirus pandemic. The event at Universal Studios Hollywood has also been called off, and Walt Disney World had already announced it won’t hold its after-hours Halloween party at the Magic Kingdom.

Busch Gardens has yet to announce plans for Howl-O-Scream, a scare fest that typically would be in advertisements already. A statement from the Tampa theme park on Friday said, “We are continuing to monitor the ongoing situation and adjusting our operations as needed.”

This will be the first time in 30 years that Halloween Horror Nights won’t go on as planned. Theme parks don’t release attendance figures, but industry experts have estimated that Universal Studios drew more than 600,000 visitors every September and October. They shelled out more than $70 each for the chance to visit classic horror films like The Purge, Halloween and a haunted house based on The Walking Dead.

“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,” the resort said in a news release. “We know this decision will disappoint our fans and guests. We are disappointed, too. But we look forward to creating an amazing event in 2021.”

HHN was scheduled to begin Sept. 10 and run through Nov. 1. Its many fans had been encouraged by the sight of a Horror Nights merchandise store under construction and Universal’s post a few weeks ago for auditions via Zoom for “scare actors,” the people hired to jump out and startle visitors in the haunted houses.

But like so much this year, the horror of the coronavirus pandemic won out.

Michael Aiello, the longtime creative director of Halloween Horror Nights, tweeted on Friday: “Like any good horror film franchise this evil will return.”