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Scary Fun Isn't Just for Halloween Anymore; Universal Horror Unleashed announced for Las Vegas
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2023 marked the 32nd year for Universal Studios annual autumn scream fest, Halloween Horror nights. But soon, it will be Halloween Horror Nights all year long at Universal Horror Unleashed, recently revealed as Universal Destinations & Experiences' first permanent horror attraction. As the first such venue planned for a location outside Universal Studio parks, it will be located at Area15 in Las Vegas. The experience promised will be an immersive one.

Area15 is already home to Meow Wolf's Omega Mart immersive other-worldly attraction, as well as Illuminarium, and Wink World, making the new Universal Horror Unleashed and its immersive format a great fit for the location, which is greatly expanding its footprint.

What will it include? Along with horror thrill experiences, there will be bar and dining areas with spooky and scary themes, as well as seasonal events and unique merch to provide what Universal officials call “a continuously updated experience.” Page Thompson, president of New Ventures for Universal Destinations & Experiences, relates that the new attraction “is another way we are using our unique style of horror storytelling to engage fans of this genre…” 

As to food and drink, Halloween Horror Nights has put an ever-increasing focus on food and drink in recent years, one that's rife with horror-themed eats and libations. Area15 will expand on this, with daytime dining that will turn toward an even spookier evening bar and dining experience.

Area15 CEO Winston Fisher describes the massive new space as one that will get guests “smiling and screaming…It's edgy, it's cool, it's fun.” He describes it as a concept that will create significant brand awareness, as well as bringing the deep storytelling and engagement of Halloween Horror Nights to life all year.

Theming for the new horror venue will cull characters from Universal Studio's classic line-up of horror films and figures from Dracula and Frankenstein to the Mummy and Wolf Man, as well as shaping fresh attraction stories from new scares created by filmmakers such as James Wan (Insidious, The Conjuring), Jordan Peele (Get Out), and Jason Blum (The Visitor, Black Christmas).

Thompson attests that the new venue will fit right in with an expanding demand for more immersive experiences. And Thompson believes that Area15 will serve as a great placement, one that is already drawing visitors who exhibit an almost identical demographic as those who visit the seasonal Halloween Horror Nights.

Halloween Horror Nights attendees and fans can expect to find attractions similar to those they enjoy screaming and laughing at during the months of September and October at Universal Studios in Orlando and Hollywood. Thompson stresses that the company has “over 30 years” of success in figuring out what thrills and chills work with their audience, and that having a permanent venue will allow the company to create fresh and innovative ones. Thompson says that the Las Vegas location will provide not just scares and horror but will do so while exhibiting “a sense of humor.”

Universal's venue will encompass a to-be-constructed 110,000-square-foot space and will be the anchor tenant in a newly expanded 20-acre campus area for Area15.

“Today we raise the walls on our next exciting incarnation, which will enable Area15 to bring more best-of-class experiential entertainment to Las Vegas,” Fisher announced as 36-foot walls were erected along Interstate 15 in late December, marking the beginning of construction.  "Consumers continue to gravitate toward artful new forms of entertainment…” he asserts, noting that he is eagerly anticipating Universal's arrival.

Although opening day is still some time off, Fisher explains that Universal's presence is “going to drive traffic. Our goal is that everybody who's in the Area15 ecosystem prospers. We want everyone to be wildly economically successful.” Fisher terms Universal one of “the right strategic partners that are best-in-class” with which Area15 wants to curate.

Along with Universal as its anchor, the new Area15 construction will house brand new vertical wind-tunnel technology from iFLY Indoor Skydiving. Other tenants and partnerships will be forthcoming, according to Fisher.

He stresses his excitement at Universal's presence in the new Area15 expansion, saying that “they've been an incredible organization to work with. They're creative, they're professional. We're really honored to work with them.”

As CEO for Universal Parks & Resorts, Mark Woodbury says, the Las Vegas location “will serve to broaden the company's reach and “deliver unique concepts for new audiences in new markets.”

The popular appeal of Halloween Horror Nights globally shows an increasing interest in horror-themed concepts at Universal parks. Thompson attests that “Universal Horror Unleashed is another way we are using our unique style of horror storytelling to engage fans of this genre.”

A scare experience available 365 days a year in Las Vegas should prove a massive win for Universal and for guests looking for more chills beyond those at the high roller roulette tables.

Beyond Universal Horror Unleashed, the Universal family is definitely in expansion mode, with its upcoming Texas theme park created especially for families and younger children, as well as large expansion plans for its Orlando theme park location. There, the Epic Universe theme park is planned to open in 2025, as Universal's third theme park in the Orlando area. Epic will offer four themed lands built around a central hub. That hub will be rich with advanced technology including robotics, drones, and even a facial recognition system designed to allow guests to have an easy and enhanced experience at the park.
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