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Niles: Universal Studios takes another step to stay ahead in theme park business

Southern California will lose a bit of its theme park history in January, when Universal Studios Hollywood closes its longest-running stand-alone attraction.

Universal’s Animal Actors and the Special Effects Show will close at the park on Jan. 8, “to make way for a new attraction,” Universal announced earlier this month. Some version of the Animal Actors show has been playing in its theater on Universal’s Upper Lot since 1970, making it the longest-running attraction at the park other than Universal’s ever-changing Studio Tour.

Located next to the Animal Actors Stage, the Special Effects Show’s Castle Theater has been staging various performances since 1980, making the two theaters the oldest unaltered corner of the park. Frankly, the theaters’ plain facades stick out in the company of the aggressively decorated lands around them, including The Simpsons’ Springfield and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Insiders have suggested that a “Fast & Furious”-themed roller coaster will replace the closing theaters, but Universal has not confirmed that. Whenever the new attraction opens, it will provide the final piece in an almost complete transformation of the park over the past two decades.

Since 2003 on the Upper Lot, Gru and the Minions have evicted Terminator, The Secret Life of Pets replaced the old Globe Theater, Universal Plaza took over the old Western stunt show space, DreamWorks Theatre replaced Shrek 4-D, which replaced the old Rugrats show, the park rebuilt its Universal Boulevard entrance street, The Simpsons kicked out Back to the Future then expanded into Springfield, and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter consumed the Universal (later Gibson) Amphitheatre as well as The Adventures of Curious George, which had replaced the Nickelodeon Blast Zone.

On the Lower Lot, Transformers replaced Backdraft and the old Special Effects Stages, while Revenge of the Mummy did in E.T., and Jurassic World replaced Jurassic Park. The biggest change will come early next year, when Super Nintendo World opens on the space formerly occupied by the “Phantom of the Opera” soundstage 28.

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