Full Preview: Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular lagoon show delights film fans with immersive tribute at Universal Orlando

in Entertainment, Movies, Theme Parks, Universal Orlando

Universal Orlando has begun sneak previews of their new nighttime lagoon show called Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular. The show is an exciting tribute as Universal Studios celebrates 100 years of filmmaking, with memorable movie clips projected on high-tech water screens and enhanced by dancing colorful fountains and fireworks.

On select nights leading up to its May 8 debut, Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular will wow all who show up to the Universal Studios Florida theme park to watch it. Arranged across the park’s winding lagoon, the show is a wonderful spectacle that is guaranteed to put a smile on any film fan’s face, reliving fond memories of classic movie moments.

I attended the second-ever sneak preview of the new lagoon show last night and though technically it’s still in a rehearsal phase, it is essentially complete, short of a few tweaks. My immediate reaction after watching the roughly 18-minute show was that of delight. Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular is truly an immersive experience, surrounding guests with vibrant entertainment on all sides.

Universal's Cinematic Spectacular

As with any new theme park experience, I did capture Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular in its entirety to share here. But unlike many of the high-quality videos we produce at Inside the Magic, I preface this particular one with a disclaimer: Go see this show in person. No video, no matter how well shot or produced, can ever truly capture the full experience of seeing Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular in the park, as there are many show elements occurring simultaneously stretching the length of the lagoon and extending onto nearby buildings, rooftops, and into the sky.

With that said, the video below is presented in 1080p HD with binaural audio, so if you can’t make it to Universal Orlando to see the show in person or if you just want a taste of what it’s all about, this should show it off as best as possible. Be sure to wear headphones while watching to get the best experience, particularly when fireworks are bursting in all directions.

Video: Full preview performance of Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular with binaural audio


Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular is not shy with its content, featuring a nearly non-stop barrage of genre-organized film clips synchronized to color-changing fountains and occasional, surprising fireworks bursts launched from several different locations around the park (and literally around guests). It’s a head-turning experience requiring multiple viewings to take it all in.

Universal's Cinematic Spectacular

My favorite sequence of the show is the one dedicated to the horror genre, featuring decades of iconic characters and scenes from instantly-recognizable properties like “Jaws,” “Halloween,” “Silence of the Lambs,” “Tales from the Crypt,” “Psycho,” and, of course, classic Universal Monsters films. The clips shown on main water screens are enhanced by ambient effects projected onto half-circle mist screens emerging from the lagoon, with a “Psycho” moment as a stand-out. For a family-friendly show, I was pleasantly surprised to see horror films adequately represented in Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular, complete with a few brief-but-startling clips. Though it should come as no surprise that horror movies are so perfectly shown off as the show’s director Mike Aiello is also one of the men responsible for the park’s Halloween Horror Nights event each year.

But beyond horror, Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular spends just as much time showcasing the comedy, heroes, villains, action, and drama of 100 years of Universal Studios film history. The films included are too many to list, including “Scarface,” “E.T.,” “Back to the Future,” “Despicable Me,” “American Pie,” “Gladiator,” “King Kong,” “Field of Dreams,” “Sixteen Candles,” “Jurassic Park,” “Animal House,” “Blues Brothers,” and many, many others, reaching back to decades ago and as recent as upcoming films “Battleship” and “Snow White and the Huntsman.” The show truly makes viewers appreciate the scope and importance of Universal Studios’ catalog of films during its 100 years in Hollywood.

Universal's Cinematic Spectacular

The show’s score features recognizable music from this same film history, with booming sound emanating from speakers behind and in front of viewers. Morgan Freeman acts perfectly as the show’s narrator, drawing attention to the films rather himself, acting only as a “presenter” of each genre.

And though many comparisons have been drawn between Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular and Disney’s World of Color, particularly fueled by the new show’s artwork, now that I have seen both I can say that the comparison should not reach beyond the fact that both shows feature colorful fountains and movie clips on water screens. The tone, style, content, and intent of Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular is entirely different from what Disney has achieved with their nighttime show in California.

Universal's Cinematic Spectacular

World of Color celebrates Disney films (mostly animated) by way of hundreds of dancing fountains and striking visuals. But the stars of Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular are the movies themselves. Universal’s show is a true tribute to films and filmmaking and the focus of the show is on the carefully selected, edited, organized, and presented clips shown on the high-tech water screens (which do produce some rather unique effects, by the way). The fountains, fireworks, and other effects are the supporting acts to Universal’s films and it is the connection to those films that audiences watching Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular will enjoy most.

Universal's Cinematic Spectacular

Universal's Cinematic Spectacular

While Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular is a wonderful nighttime spectacle that surrounds guests with non-stop visuals, the true spectacle is the reminder that Universal Studios has produced such incredible films for so many years and this new lagoon show successfully celebrates that rich history while simultaneously entertaining guests with a flurry of vibrant effects that enhance the motion picture experience.

Where, When, and How

Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular features three main water screens, viewable from both sides, each flanked by rows of fountains and accompanied by a mist screen that comes and goes throughout the show, complimenting the main visuals. Fireworks are simultaneously shot off periodically throughout the show from the areas near Disaster, Fear Factor, and The Simpsons Ride, with the latter hosting the grand finale bursts.

While the show can be seen from anywhere around the park’s lagoon, the best two viewing areas right now are the waterside balconies in Battery Park (near Mel’s Drive-In) and the “splash zone” area jutting out into the water on the opposite side of the lagoon from the Richter’s restaurant (where the video above was recorded from). Eventually, the waterside area in front The Simpsons Ride will be ideal, with symmetrical fountains extending from both sides of the water screen positioned there. However, due to ongoing construction in the former Amity / Jaws area, this area is not currently the best, with light leakage from the construction zone and no buildings to block the wind.

Universal's Cinematic Spectacular

No two spots will ever offer quite the same view of Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular and everyone around the lagoon will be looking left, right, up and down taking in all of the show’s elements.

It’s also worth noting that beginning soon, during the day, the rather unsightly metal structures that create the water screens for the show are able to fold down, leaving only the Universal logo visible. So far Universal Studios hasn’t opted to collapse the units, but they intend to during the day, once the show officially debuts.

Universal's Cinematic Spectacular

Universal's Cinematic Spectacular

Until Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular premieres on May 8, a quick check of Universal Studios’ park hours should reveal the dates on which sneak previews will be shown. Any of the days that list the park as closing at 8:30 p.m. is a likely candidate, though it’s not guaranteed.

Universal's Cinematic Spectacular

Again, I highly recommend seeing Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular in person before forming any judgements or making any comparisons from the new show. It’s one of those experiences that will never be enjoyed as much online as it is in real life.

More photos from Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular lagoon show:

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