When Universal Studios Orlando Resort wanted to introduce its new The Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park to special-event and meeting-planning partners this summer, it put together its own magic formula for grand opening event success. Hundreds of guests from the travel and event industry, the news media, Warner Bros., and NBC Universal, as well as the film franchise's cast members, attended the July 16-18 grand opening celebration. From the moment guests received the invitation for the opening, which included an exact replica of the “hero wand” used by the main characters in J.K. Rowling's beloved books and films, the theme of magical enchantment and out-of-this-world wizardry was evident.
“Guests could tour Hogwarts Castle; shop in Hogsmeade, including Honeydukes Homemade Sweets, Filch's Emporium, and Dervish & Banges; and dine in the Three Broomsticks Restaurant, featuring traditional English fare. Other adventures allowed them to fly with Harry, ride on a dragon, sample Butterbeer (a butterscotch flavored concoction that is a tasty non-alcoholic beverage for humans but very intoxicating for elves), and eat exploding sweets,” says Lisa Jacobson, director of event management at the resort venue in central Florida.
Arriving guests were greeted at the entry gates to Hogsmeade with a 400-foot red carpet lined by cheering fans in order for them to experience what Jacobson called “a premiere red-carpet arrival event.”
A highlight of the celebration was a special performance by composer John Williams conducting the 80-piece Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra.
As darkness fell, the rooftop of Hogwarts Castle was illuminated using the same light effects used to illuminate the pyramids in Egypt. A huge pyrotechnics display topped off the festivities.
“The feedback about our grand opening celebration has been tremendous, overwhelming, and extremely positive from all of our guests” says Jacobson. “At Universal Orlando, we are very fortunate to have a team of extremely talented special-event experts to produce — in collaboration with Warner Bros. — an event of this magnitude.”
Universal Studios Orlando Snapshot
THREE HOTELS: Loews Portofino Bay Hotel (750 guest rooms, 8 restaurants/lounges, 42,000 square feet meeting/function space)
Hard Rock Hotel (650 guest rooms, 5 restaurants/lounges, 6,000 square feet meeting/function space)
Loews Royal Pacific (1,000 guest rooms, 5 restaurants/lounges, 85,000 square feet meeting/function space.
Total meeting/function space: over 250,000 square feet
TWO THEME PARKS: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Universal Studios Orlando, including Universal CityWalk and Universal's Islands of Adventure