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Now That Halloween Horror Nights Is Canceled At Universal Orlando – What’s Next?

Now that Halloween Horror Nights has been officially canceled for 2020 at Universal Orlando, what does it mean? Will the same houses just transfer over to 2021? How does it affect other seasonal events like Mardi Gras and Grinchmas? Today we take a look at the domino effect canceling this event will potentially have at Universal Orlando within the next year or so.

Make no mistake about it, Halloween Horror Nights in Orlando was moving forward as of Monday, June 20. Yet the event was canceled on June 25. The tribute store facade went up earlier in the week and was rumored to open on Friday. It doesn’t look like it will open at all now. This is because the theming of the shop revolves around houses that never got announced. Most likely the shop will get packed away and never open in 2020. Even though, if you follow websites like TPU, you may know of all the houses and intellectual properties that was going into HHN 30, the general public does not.

In addition, positions for scare actors were already being cast both internally and externally. Universal made hundreds of offers to individuals who were ready to work this fall. Many of those people are now going to be looking for work elsewhere. Particularly the ones who were from outside of the company are going to have a harder time since they weren’t laid off from Universal and they won’t be able to collect unemployment since they never started the job to begin with.

In addition, what happens to the folks who create and design Halloween Horror Nights ever year? Assuming the designs just carry over into 2021, do they get laid off? Will Universal absorb them into other departments to keep them employed? It’s a tough call all around and ones we don’t have answers to just yet. The head scratcher here is, if HHN was moving forward as of Monday and then Friday it was cancelled… what caused the sudden change?

If our sources are correct, here is what happened. Orange County asked to walk the event with Universal Orlando executives. Essentially they had planned to run the event similar to how they run their daily theme park operations. Increased social distancing in queues, limiting the amount of people in each house and adding extra hand sanitizer, etc.

Unfortunately, Halloween Horror Nights starts getting built in Orlando in February before anyone knew the impact COVID-19 would have on theme parks. Apparently sometime in the middle of last week, Orange County asked Universal to widen the walkways to accommodate for more space not only between actor and guests, but to better space guest groups out as well. This just wasn’t possible with the space confinements given plus being able to open by the fall.

It’s also worth mentioning that the houses for Halloween Horror Nights 30 are about 90% finished and sitting there as this story is being published. Only finishing touches need to be added. While in theory, you can just lock them up and reuse them in 2021, that may not be practical for several reasons.

For starters, the contracts tied to the intellectual properties are specific to 2020. This means for a house like Beetlejuice, the rights might be tied up in another project in 2021 that wouldn’t allow it to open at Halloween Horror Nights next year. For example, if the Beetlejuice Broadway musical wants to come to a theater in Florida. The production could have a provision in it that no other Beetlejuice attractions, shows or events can be within a certain radius of the traveling Broadway venue.

All those contracts need to be renegotiated and for several reasons, a studio or performer can ask to pull out. It can include a conflict of interest, money, or just a change in marketing strategy. The point is, just because it was a deal for 2020 doesn’t mean it will be a slam dunk for 2021. Since most of this has been built, you can bet Universal will do what they can to have those intellectual properties roll over into next year.

This brings us to what happens with future events such as holidays at Universal Orlando or Mardi Gras? Clearly, no one has an idea when this pandemic will end. Thus, it’s far too early to say those events will need to be cancelled or postponed.

Assuming they are still moving forward, locking the doors on all the soundstages, tents and other venues that are currently holding HHN houses could prove to be problematic. Grinchmas takes place in Soundstage 20, which isn’t used for any of the houses for Halloween Horror Nights. Thus, assuming Universal Orlando thinks it is worth it, they can still have this annual event. Only filling a quarter of the seats due to social distancing requirements may not be financially realistic.

On the other hand, having a parade of any kind would be next to impossible. Crowds tend to gather after a parade starts and it would be nearly impossible to keep crowds apart on the street as a 20-minute parade rolled by. This would hold true for the Universal Holiday Parade as well as Mardi Gras if this drags on into next year.

Rather, you might be able to roll out select floats at random times of the day. This way guests can take socially distanced selfies with some of the floats and characters. However, any kind of seasonal concerts would still be considered off the table until things get back to normal.

What are your thoughts on Universal Orlando’s seasonal entertainment moving forward? Do you think they will still keep Grinchmas and some form of the parade? I’d like to hear your thoughts.

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