Universal Reportedly Eyes Purchase of Rival Studio

in Entertainment, Universal Studios

Rotating globe with the Universal Studios logo, under a clear blue sky, welcoming visitors to an adventurous theme park experience.

Credit: Universal

In the competition for best theme park in the world, Disney and Universal have long gone head to head for the title of number one. In the United States, they are the two biggest theme parks, with each one having a location in central Florida and California. In addition, Universal is actively working on expanding its locations to include a family-sized theme park in Frisco, Texas, and a year-round Halloween Horror Nights experience in Las Vegas, Nevada.

In comparison, the Disney parks seem to have no plan on opening a new location outside of their current states. With a third park also underway at the Universal Orlando Resort, many people have begun speculating on the future of Walt Disney World and Universal. However, recent rumors from an insider source may put Universal ahead of the curve in the near future.

The Universal parks consist of Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal Orlando Resort, Universal Studios Japan, Universal Studios Singapore, and Universal Beijing Resort. The park was created as a way to honor and celebrate the world of Hollywood and the golden era of film. The theme park as it exists today first started in 1964 but Universal’s history goes all the way back to 1914.

Guests upside down while riding Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit
Credit: Universal

Universal Destinations & Experiences

Over the years, Universal Hollywood was utilized as a way to take guests into the movies, providing studio tours, walk throughs, and other tourist attractions. Since then, the recently renamed Universal Destinations & Experiences has spanned five theme park resorts and five countries, rivaling the Disney parks presence with its six resorts across four countries.

Formerly known as Universal Parks & Resorts, the Universal theme parks have had a long history with its ties to Hollywood. Whereas Universal Hollywood is a theme park born from a working film studio lot, the Universal Orlando Resort was built to be used for both from the start. It previously housed Nickelodeon Studios and filmed several live shows on property. Unfortunately, the Florida park would shut down many of its active sound stages just a few years after opening in favor of focusing on Hollywood.

Universal Studios Hollywood entrance with red carpet
Credit: Universal

Universal Hollywood still offers guests a Backlot Studio Tour, where guests can take a tram ride through some iconic production sets, including Back to the Future, Psycho, and The Good Place. The property is still home to several ongoing productions, including The Kelly Clarkson Show.

In addition to touring sets inspired and used by the movies, guests can immerse themselves in areas themed after some of their favorite franchises, including Jurassic Park and Jurassic World, King Kong, Dr. Suess, Sunday newspaper cartoons, and the Marvel superheroes.  However, perhaps the biggest property featured at the Universal parks is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Universal Studios Hollywood Tram
Credit: Universal Studios Hollywood

Four of the five Universal Resorts feature an area themed after the iconic magical world of Harry Potter, including areas themed after Diagon Alley and the Village of Hogsmeade, where guests can experience attractions like Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, which takes riders through Hogwarts Castle, or Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts.

Florida guests will also soon be able to visit an all-new park, Epic Universe, which is expected to open in the summer of 2025. Epic Universe will not only include a Harry Potter addition, but will also have an area dedicated to the How To Train Your Dragon franchise, the classic Universal monsters, and its own SUPER NINTENDO WORLD.

However, if the latest rumor is true, it’s possible that Universal could be adding several more franchise IPs (intellectual properties) within the next few years.

Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling on the Barbie movie poster
Credit: Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.

Warner Bros. (now Warner Bros. Discovery) has been one of the biggest film studios for decades. The Warner Bros. umbrella includes the DC heroes, including Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and the former DC Extended Universe (DCEU) and the upcoming James Gunn DC Universe (DCU), Harry Potter (although the Universal parks have limited rights for theme park creations), Looney Toons, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and several horror franchises, including Nightmare on Elm Street and The Exorcist.

The studio saw its biggest success yet with the release of Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie’s Barbie earlier this summer, which broke records across the board. Highest-grossing film of 2023, first female-directed film to make $1 billion, and more, Barbie was an undeniable hit for Warner Bros. However, it had some serious competition in Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, which was released by Universal Pictures and would also eventually gross over $1 billion.

Harry Potter stares ahead in fear in front of a tombstone
Credit: Warner Bros.

Warner Bros. has been arguably struggling since the 2020 pandemic, when the studio rapidly pivoted to releasing content to streaming on HBOMax instead of theatrical releases without prior warning. Then, Warner Bros. merged with Discovery (which owned HBO) and decided to update HBOMax to just Max, resulting in some backlash about losing the HBO name and legacy.

CEO David Zaslav has also come under fire this year during the writers and actors strike. He was booed while speaking at a college commencement ceremony and has been criticized for comments in regards to the strikes. Warner Bros. has also faced heat for removing content from its streaming platform, including several beloved Cartoon Network and children’s shows.

With these struggles in mind, a recent report from Variety claims that Warner Bros. could find a new home under none other than Universal Pictures. The rumor comes from a recent tell-all from Variety in regards to allegations surrounding the production of the upcoming Aquaman 2: The Lost Kingdom.

Jason Momoa in 'Aquaman 2' from Warner Bros
Credit: Warner Bros.

The report itself details allegations between stars Jason Momoa and Amber Heard in relation to Heard’s defamation case against ex-husband Johnny Depp. The ongoing drama involving Heard as well as the disappointing performances of the last several DCEU films have led to a black cloud over hanging over Warner Bros. However, the report claims that

“Regardless, some on the lot are convinced that another company, most likely Universal, will buy Warner Bros. within two years, making recent DC subplots and upheavals feel quaint.”

This means that Universal would officially own the rights to Harry Potter and the DC superheroes as well as Warner Bros. massive catalog of underused and underrepresented franchises and IPs.

An empty Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Orlando Florida
Credit: Universal Orlando Resort

What could this mean for the Universal parks?

This could mean several things for the Universal parks. First and foremost, Universal would finally officially own the rights to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter outright, which would allow them to extend their Harry Potter areas in the parks with little issue. With the continued popularity of the franchise and its park tie-ins, Universal very well could build an entire park around the franchise alone.

In addition, Universal would have access to the DC heroes which it could use to try and combat Disney and Marvel’s success with the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and the Avengers. Currently, the only U.S. Disney park to feature the Marvel heroes is Disneyland in California. Due to a legal dispute with Universal, Walt Disney World in Florida is unable to feature any of the iconic Avengers or other MCU characters in its parks, which gives Universal ongoing rights to its Marvel Super Hero Island.

Universal Orlando Resort, Marvel Super Hero Island at Islands of Adventure
Credit: Universal Orlando Resort

If Universal were to purchase Warner Bros., and DC Studios along with it, it could either give up its claim to Marvel, allowing Disney World to feature its most popular characters in the parks, and go all in on the iconic DC characters. Or, Universal could maintain rights to both franchises within the parks, giving it a major one-up over Disney World while giving an added boost to Universal Hollywood with the addition of the DC characters.

Although expectations are high for James Gunn’s upcoming DCU reboot, there’s no arguing that the DC heroes have seen disappointing releases and failures in the last few years. With Universal at the helm, it could be exactly what the studio needs to get DC up to the level of Marvel, especially as Marvel has started to experience its own series of disappointments over the last couple of years.

Six Flags St. Louis Supergirl attraction
Credit: Six Flags

In addition, Universal would gain access to Looney Tunes, which is currently featured within the Six Flags theme parks across America along with the DC Comics heroes. While possibly a dying franchise, Looney Tunes at least gives Six Flags iconic characters for children which could give Universal yet another boost if added to their ever-growing cast of characters.

It would also give Universal Pictures the rights to several horror franchises, which could then be used to elevate the parks’ annual Halloween Horror Nights events or even lend itself to a future land dedicated strictly to the icons of horror in addition to Universal’s classic monsters.

Guests screaming while attending Halloween Horror Nights
Credit: Universal Orlando

Again, the rumors are unsubstantiated and there’s been no comment from Warner Bros. or Universal on a potential purchase, but that doesn’t mean it’s unlikely. It would help Warner Bros. come back from a troubled overhaul and could give DC Studios the direction it needs to finally compete on a major scale with the historical success of Marvel.

Until the rumors are confirmed, all we can do is dream about the park that could be if Universal and Warner Bros. teamed up. In the meantime, we’ll be waiting with baited breath for the opening of Epic Universe and the latest Harry Potter expansion, along with some trepidation for the future of the DCU.

What do you think of Universal potentially buying Warner Bros.? What would you want to see if a merge happens? Let us know in the comments below!

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