As a kid, I always thought that if an attraction was in a Universal Studios theme park, that meant it was a Universal film. As I grew older, I started to recognize that isn’t the case, and that a lot of the time, intellectual properties are licensed in order to use certain characters in the parks. A great example is “Beetlejuice.” For a long time, I thought this was a Universal character since he was featured so much in the park. I was surprised to find out that that film was distributed by Warner Bros. It was equally as confusing at a younger age with everything at Disney-MGM Studios.
The licensing agreement is very common among theme parks but it’s something the general public mostly likely isn’t aware of or doesn’t care about. Universal Studios’ annual Halloween Horror Nights events are no stranger when it comes to licensing some of the hottest horror properties in order to satisfy its audience. But these days, it may be tougher for Universal Studios to gain access to the properties they desire, considering new ownership of certain movies and shows by Universal’s steepest competition, as well as other studios’ interest in taking part in Halloween events. Let’s take a look at some properties previously featured at Halloween Horror Nights that we may never see return due to these circumstances.
The biggest concern for them may be the fact that The Walt Disney Company acquired 21st Century Fox and its library back in 2019. In more recent years, this would affect some of the haunted houses they’ve created at the event, including “Alien vs. Predator” and “American Horror Story.” It’s strange to think about, but yes, Disney now owns those properties.
To be fair, there’s no way that Disney would ever use these franchises in their Halloween events, considering they’re geared toward children, so maybe they’re still up for making a licensing agreement. Or maybe those properties aren’t a big enough draw in order for Universal to negotiate with their steepest competition. If Universal were interested, perhaps it could make for a very interesting negotiation. I’m sure Disney would love to see the Marvel and Simpsons characters removed from the Universal parks now that Disney owns them. Maybe this could help seal that deal. Unlikely, but possible.
Even more concerning for Universal may be the fact that Warner Bros. Studios has gotten into the Halloween events game in more recent years. Warner Bros.’ Horror Made Here event was located literally across the street from Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights. If Warner Bros. were to limit the use of some of their franchises due to nearby competition, that may become problematic as Halloween Horror Nights has used even more Warner Bros. properties throughout the years, including “Trick ‘r Treat” and “The Shining.” Plus, don’t forget the Warner Bros. owned New Line Cinema with the iconic horror trio “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Friday the 13th.” Additionally, in the past, the Crypt Keeper from HBO’s (owned by Warner Bros.) “Tales from the Crypt” was a featured part of the event.
It’s hard to tell whether or not the Warner Bros. Halloween event will return, as they took a hiatus in 2019 and it isn’t happening in 2020 for obvious reasons. If the event does return and becomes a big money maker for the studio, Warner Bros. may become more resistant to licensing out their most famous horror icons to a rival studio. Of course, this competition mostly affects Hollywood, but in more recent years it seems as though the Universal Studios Hollywood and Orlando parks have been sharing intellectual properties during Halloween Horror Nights.
Overall, I don’t really think this is a bad thing. Universal Studios seems to continue to pump out horror movies of their own, and let’s not forget that Universal Pictures basically invented the horror movie with their Universal Monsters. Also, this may require the Halloween Horror Nights event to feature even more original mazes not based on intellectual properties. Those tend to be my favorites anyway.
From a marketing standpoint, it may make it a bit more difficult to sell tickets if they don’t have some big name properties, but from an enjoyment point of view, I don’t think it will affect the event much. Plus, movie rights seem to bounce in and out of studios’ hands on a regular basis, so perhaps some of the previously mentioned titles will be available in future years.
If you have any theme park topics you would like to hear my opinion on, let me know in the comments. You might just see it pop up in a future DePaoli on DeParks.
Jeff DePaoli is a producer and voiceover artist living in Los Angeles. He is the host and producer of “That Halloween Podcast,” a new show where you can hear Halloween-loving conversations with fantastic guests from the haunt, horror and entertainment industries every day this October. Listen and claim your FREE Halloween gifts at DePodcastNetwork.com.