'Harry Potter' Pushes Universal Studios Japan Toward Record Visitor Numbers

Hogwarts Castle is the centerpiece of the Harry Potter attraction

The park has seen 10 million visitors so far this financial year, with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction the big draw.

Driven by the Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction, Universal Studios Japan (USJ) is on track to break its annual visitor numbers record of 11.02 million, set in its opening year of 2001.

The park saw the 10 millionth visitor of its financial year (April to March) come through its gates on Monday, the last day of a holiday weekend.

"We're ahead of schedule and should pass the previous record comfortably, bar any serious problems or incidents, as it's still January," USJ Co. spokesperson Johta Takahashi told The Hollywood Reporter.   

The Harry Potter attraction opened in July to major fanfare and saw entry tickets sell out and rooms at local hotels fully booked as fans flocked from around Japan and Asia to the 45 billion ($444 million at exchange rates at the time) re-creation of Hogwarts Castle and other features.

 

Japan is enjoying a tourist boom, partly due to a weak currency, which is also boosting visitor numbers at the theme park, though foreign customers don't yet account for 10 percent of admissions, according to USJ.

"Although Wizarding World is the biggest single driver, it's not the only factor; seasonal events such as Xmas and Halloween are also very popular," said Takahashi.

USJ is also running a Universal Cool Japan event from Jan. 23 to May 10, which will feature an "immersive 4D" presentation of the cult favorite anime Evangelion, as well as an attraction based on the Resident Evil (Biohazard) franchise.

Admission prices will be raised at the end of this month, by just over three percent to $61.20 (7,200) for adults. This will be the seventh price hike since the park opened and USJ's Takahashi doesn't expect a significant impact, in line with previous occasions.

With legislation for casino legalization in Japan's heavily regulated gambling market on the table last year, USJ Co. had been discussing partnerships with major overseas operators, including MGM and Caesars, for integrated resorts. However, the bill stalled late last year and now appears to have been postponed indefinitely.

Twitter: @GavinJBlair

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