Theme parks based around movie studios have become big business during the last few decades, inspired by the success of Universal Studios Hollywood in Los Angeles. These parks often provide real insight into the filmmaking process, as well as combining the magic of the movies with real-world thrills. While the leading examples are predictably located in the United States, the concept has now spread across the globe. Here’s a rundown of the world’s best movie-themed parks.
10. Movieland Park (Italy)
Situated close to the bustling resorts that surround Lake Garda, Movieland Park offers a variety of unique attractions. This includes bizarre “submarine simulator” U571, which soaks guests by dipping them into a tank of water, and a “5D” laser gun attraction themed around the Terminator movies. Some of the park’s other attractions are less original, with the Hollywood Tower freefall drop ride clearly inspired by Disney’s Twilight Zone Tower of Terror rides. The studio tour, though, does stand out for featuring vehicles that travel at a breakneck speed.
9. Parque Warner Madrid (Spain)
Opened in 2002, Parque Warner Madrid was originally a European outpost of American amusement park giant Six Flags. Now managed by Time Warner and a Spanish investment group, it still features a number of Six Flags’ signature thrill rides and roller coasters. The headline attractions are the stunning floorless coaster Superman: Ride of Steel, inverted coaster Batman: The Escape and Revenge of the Enigma, a 330-feet-tall drop tower. Whereas Six Flags’ North American parks are not exactly renowned for featuring strong theming, Parque Warner Madrid is home to a number of well-designed areas inspired by movies and comic books.
8. Universal Studios Singapore (Singapore)
The latest in Universal’s chain of theme parks has been steadily building a strong reputation since its 2010 debut. It features a host of rides based on attractions at the company’s existing parks, such as the Revenge of the Mummy roller coaster and Shrek 4-D. However, it also features a number of all-new offerings, such as the duelling Battlestar Galactica coasters, the Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure and the Madagascar: A Crate Adventure boat ride. An impressive new dark ride, Transformers The Ride – 3D, opened to the public in 2011.
7. Movie Park Germany (Germany)
Like Parque Warner Madrid, Movie Park Germany was originally managed by a combination of Warner Bros. and Six Flags. Both have since been disposed of, and the park now features rides and shows based around famous movies from 20th Century Fox, MGM and Nickelodeon. In addition to a range of high-quality steel roller coasters, it also houses wooden coaster Bandit and the impressively-themed Bermuda Triangle water ride.
6. Warner Bros. Movie World (Australia)
Located on Australia’s sunny Gold Coast, Warner Bros. Movie World features a wide range of Hollywood-inspired attractions alongside an active studio. Highlights in its line-up include Lethal Weapon – The Ride, an inverted coaster based on the classic Mel Gibson series, and Superman Escape, which launches riders from 0 to 62 miles per hour in 2 seconds. The park’s roster of coasters received a boost in 2011 with the debut of Green Lantern Coaster, which features the steepest drop of any coaster in the Southern Hemisphere.
5. Universal Studios Japan (Japan)
The first Universal Studios park to open outside of the US has retained many of the classic attractions that have now been shuttered in Hollywood and Orlando. This includes the classic Back to the Future simulator ride and Jaws, which sees guests being menaced by a life-sized animatronic shark. Newer additions include Space Fantasy: The Ride, a bizarre journey through outer space, and The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman, a clone of the popular dark ride at Islands of Adventure in Florida.
4. Walt Disney Studios, Paris (France)
Derided by many following its 2002 opening day, the second theme park at the Disneyland Resort Paris was somewhat lacking in both attractions at atmosphere during its first few years. While it still has some distance to go before it matches Disney’s best theme parks, things have improved somewhat. The addition of the spinning Crush’s Coaster and a version of the classic Twilight Zone Tower of Terror boosted attendance significantly, while a groundbreaking new dark ride based on Pixar’s Ratatouille is due to open in 2014. Don’t miss the often-overlooked CinéMagique, which fuses footage from a variety of classic movies to celebrate the history of cinema.
3. Universal Studios Florida (USA)
Like the original park in Hollywood, Universal Studios Florida combines a theme park with a movie and television studio. However, little production actually takes place here, and the rides and shows very much take centre-stage. A number of these – Twister: Ride it Out, and Disaster, for example – are devoted to explaining the technical processes that form a major part of modern filmmaking. Others, such as Revenge of the Mummy and Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit, just offer pure white-knuckle thrills. Keep your eyes on the park during the next few years – a swathe of new Harry Potter-themed attractions are set to be installed in the former Amity area.
2. Disney’s Hollywood Studios (USA)
When it heard about the plans for Universal Studios Florida, Walt Disney World rushed to build its own movie-themed park. In the end, Disney’s Hollywood Studios debuted a year ahead of its rival, in 1989. While the attached production facilities have since been closed down, this has at least created room for some spectacular rides. The original – and best – version of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror dominates the park’s skyline, while the interactive, super-addictive Toy Story Mania draws huge crowds.
1. Universal Studios Hollywood (USA)
The original movie studio theme park still stands head-and-shoulders above the rest. While many of Universal Studios Hollywood’s rides, such as Revenge of the Mummy and Jurassic Park River Adventure, can be found in the company’s other parks, its world-famous Studio Tour cannot. Packing a huge amount into its 45-minute run-time, the tram tour takes in a variety of real, working areas on the studio’s backlot, culminating in the spectacular King Kong 360 3-D experience. The park is set to get even better, with a version of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter slated to open during the next few years.
With a variety of new, mega-budget attractions in the pipeline, the world’s movie-themed parks look set to further establish themselves as major tourist destinations. Visit any of the parks highlighted above, and you’ll be closer than ever to stepping into the world of blockbuster films.