New Harry Potter nighttime show coming to Universal Studios Japan, but hope isn't lost for Orlando


In the early years of Islands of Adventure, the park closed out the day with an impressive lagoon show that included fireworks and special effects. That show was canned well over a decade ago, and now the closest we’ve gotten to a new nighttime show at Universal Orlando’s second gate is some test balloons seen floating in the lagoon a few years back.

Rumors have been swirling over the past year of a new nighttime show themed to Harry Potter. The show would rely heavily on projection technology, using Hogwarts Castle as its main canvas. Talk of the show heated up when Universal Hollywood’s version of Hogsmeade opened last year. During the opening ceremonies a projection show, similar to the one rumored for Florida, was deployed. This was the last confirmed show of this type.

But Universal Studios Japan, which NBC Universal recently agreed to fully purchase, has announced a brand-new nighttime show that sounds very similar to the long-rumored Orlando show. Unlike in Orlando or Hollywood, in Japan Hogwarts Castle sits on the opposite side of the Black Lake.

The show will include projection mapping special effects and lighting. Dementors will be featured in the show, in which dark forces attempt to take over Hogwarts. The show sounds remarkably similar to the one previewed at Hollywood’s opening. That show, which included an impressive amount of pyrotechnics, lasted roughly four and half minutes. By comparison, Wishes at the Magic Kingdom and Universal Studios Florida’s Cinematic Spectacular both last approximately 18-20 minutes. Few details have been shared on Japan’s new nighttime show.

Here in Orlando, there are few places where large crowds could gather, which greatly reduces the capacity for any type of large nighttime show. One option would be to have the projection show on the castle at various times throughout the evening, similar to how the Tree of Life’s Nighttime Awakenings show works.

At Animal Kingdom, the Nighttime Awakenings show happens randomly throughout the evening with no posted times or information on what each show may entail. The shows are random, each telling the story of a different animal featured on the tree.

Currently, Islands of Adventure is nearly a ghost town after 5 p.m. or so, a similar issue that Animal Kingdom faced in the past. Any type of new evening entertainment at Islands would help keep guests in the park during those higher-profit dinner hours. This is something Universal has tried to do with various dining options at CityWalk, but if the free evening parking is any indication, that’s not going so well. Any time an Orlando theme park is giving something out for free it’s usually not a good sign.

For now, we'll have to get our Potter fix with two major themed areas with no nighttime entertainment – at least we have Universal Cinematic Spectacular.

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