Why Universal Studios had to cancel its Halloween Horror Nights – Orange County Register

Why Universal Studios had to cancel its Halloween Horror Nights – Orange County Register

So now the Grim Reaper has come for … himself.

Universal has called off its Halloween Horror Nights for this year at both Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Studios Florida. The horror that is 2020 now has canceled the horror that people actually enjoyed.

Managers at the Universal often bragged that the after-hours, hard-ticket event provided a “13th month” of revenue for the parks each year. That speaks both to the popularity of Halloween Horror Nights and the financial hit that Universal will take by not holding it this year. But that money was gone long before Universal made its announcement.

Halloween brings neighbors and strangers together like no other holiday does. When else in America do we open our doors to others the way we do on Halloween night? Get a reputation for giving out the “good” candy, and your neighborhood will be filled with conga lines of costumed children moving from house to house all evening.

With Halloween Horror Nights, Universal brought that shared experience to its theme parks for more than 30 nights over two months. The prize wasn’t free candy — it was the biggest collection of new attractions opened in any single existing theme park during the year. Unlike many theme parks that reuse the same mazes year after year at their Halloween events, Universal brought a fresh lineup each September.

Thousands of “scareactors” then brought these mazes and scare zones to life. For an event themed to so much death, Halloween Horror Nights always feels more alive than anything else that happens all year in the parks.  It’s the ultimate social experience for the ultimate social holiday.

Which meant that the event had less chance of making it through 2020 than a frisky camper in a “Friday the 13th” movie.

California has not approved theme parks to reopen in the state, so the clock ran out on time for Universal Studios Hollywood to launch this year’s Halloween Horror Nights. But even though theme parks are reopened in Florida, I must confess that I am happy not to have to make the choice whether to fly to Orlando to cover Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights there.

It’s been clear for months now that if Halloween Horror Nights happened in 2020, its story would not be the new mazes, scare zones and characters that Universal’s creative team developed for the event. Fans instead have been asking about how Universal would enforce physical distancing in what has been a jam-packed event. How much plexiglass would Universal have to order to put in between its scareactors and the public?

That wasn’t a story I wanted to write. Horror celebrates defiance. It centers on the outcast. It challenges you to awaken every sense — to pay attention to the details that surround you. Horror Nights is a visceral experience. Barriers that isolate you defeat the whole point. So for the safety of everyone, Universal had to cancel.

So while I welcome Halloween Horror Night’s unfortunate cancellation this year, I cannot wait for the next time this event happens. Because I want nothing more at this point than to be able to stand with my fellow Halloween fans and look back at 2020 by giving this year the bloodcurdling scream that it deserves.

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