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Disney Answers Universal With a Massive Theme Park Investment

The Mouse House has finally shared big plans for its theme parks with the impending opening of Universal's new Epic Universe.

With such a high number of theme parks concentrated in cities like Orlando and Anaheim, visitors are left with a wealth of choice -- these parks have to compete for visitors' funds and vacation days by offering rides, shows, and experiences not available elsewhere.

Comcast  (CMCSA) - Get Free Report-owned Universal has invested significant funds into building an entirely new park. Universal Epic Universe is currently under intense construction to be ready for opening in the summer of 2025.

While Universal execs have so far kept quiet on what kind of rides and themed areas the park will have, it will certainly not be small in scale -- early plans show that the park is situated on a 750-acre plot of land a 15-minute walk from the north complex housing Orlando parks like Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure and water park Volcano Bay.

"I'm especially excited for Epic Universe to open in the summer of 2025 which will transform Universal Orlando into a weeklong destination," Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said during a fall earnings call. Roberts also mentioned future plans to open Super Nintendo World in Hollywood in 2023 as well as a Donkey Kong area in Japan's Super Nintendo World by 2024.

Super Nintendo World Lead JS 090122

Disney Has An Answer to Universal's Investments

Less than a month after longtime CEO Bob Iger was brought back to replace Bob Chapek, the Walt Disney Company  (DIS) - Get Free Report has also committed to pouring significant funds into its parks.

Industry outlet Blog Mickey was the first to report that Disney plans to spend $6.3 billion on capital expenditure in the fiscal year of 2023 -- a 37% increase from the $4.7 billion spent in 2022.

Commonly referred to as CAPEX, capital expenditure is a finance term referring to money spent improving or increasing a company's physical assets. This means, in other words, that Disney plans to improve current parks with features like new rides or develop new ones.

If Disney ends up following through on the SEC filing, its CAPEX funding will be a significant increase from both 2022 and an earlier record of $4.22 billion in 2016. In the filing, the company said that the larger number is caused by "higher spending across the enterprise."

Bob Iger's Disney Vision Still Uncertain, But a Lot of Money is Going to Be Spent

Iger, who led Disney from 2005 to 2020, has been known to pour significant money into keeping up with the Joneses -- after Universal opened the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in 2016, Disney added "Pandora: The World of Avatar" to Animal Kingdom and both "Toy Story Land" and "Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge" to both its Florida and California parks.

The CAPEX commitment could go toward renovations and updates that are less exciting to the average visitor but, given the record-high number, it is safe to assume that at least some new rides are in store.

One major upcoming ride that Disney has been advertising to much fanfare is the "Tron Lightcycle Power Run" -- the roller coaster first opened at Disneyland Shanghai in 2016 and quickly became one of its highest-rated rides due to the extreme factor. It has multiple loops and gathers up a speed of up to 60 miles an hour.

The roller coaster is currently in the midst of safety testing and, after several pushbacks, is slated to open to the public in Orlando by the spring of 2023.

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