Universal Orlando developing plenty of new attractions

Skull Island: Reign of Kong is among the new attractions developed by Universal Orlando. (Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando.)

Skull Island: Reign of Kong is among the new attractions developed by Universal Orlando. (Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando.)


ORLANDO – If summer marks the height of the tourist season for Central Florida’s hospitality industry, it can also mark a time when theme parks are eager to roll out new rides and attractions to keep their appeal fresh to visitors.
That’s particularly true at Universal Studios, which is hoping a volcano in the Pacific, a few scares by King Kong, and a chocolate kitchen convince the guests that this is the place to be during their Orlando vacation.
This summer, Universal unveils its new Skull Island: Reign of Kong attraction, which harkens back to the original “King Kong” movie from 1933, where a group of filmmakers travel to the Indian Ocean to do location shooting for a new picture, only to find that actress An Darrow gets kidnapped by a giant ape. The movie has since been remade several times, including a 2005 version of director Peter Jackson, who also made the “Lord of the Rings” films.
Opening at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Universal describes this ride, which runs just under seven minutes long, as an “intense, all-new adventure brought to life in a dramatically themed environment,” and one that will “pull guests into a powerfully told story where they become part of the next generation of the Kong legend.”
The journey that guests take will include visiting an ancient temple inhabited by hostile natives, a jungle filled with prehistoric creatures, and then direct contact with the colossal Kong. Continue reading

World Travel Council predicts Orlando tourism will rebound from Pulse massacre

This memorial to the victims of the Pulse shooting was put on display at Orlando's lake Eola Park. (Photo by Michael Freeman).

This memorial to the victims of the Pulse shooting was put on display at Orlando’s lake Eola Park. (Photo by Michael Freeman).


ORLANDO — For a region that likes to bill itself as “the happiest place on Earth,” three shocking and tragic incidents over the course of a few days brought round-the-clock international coverage to the Orlando area – and not in the way the city wanted.
But it’s not yet clear if these incidents — which include the worst domestic terrorist attack in the nation since 911 – will have a lasting impact on the Orlando area’s tourism industry. In fact, the president of the World Travel & Tourism Council predicted that Orlando’s tourist attractions would likely make a quick rebound.
For Orlando, the grim reports started on June 10, when Christina Grimmie, the 22-year-old singer from NBC’s “The Voice,” was fatally shot while signing autographs after a show at The Plaza Live theater in Orlando. A man approached her and opened fire. The shooter, later identified as Kevin James Loibl, shot and killed himself after the singer’s brother, Marcus Grimmie, tackled him.
The shock that that incident was rapidly followed by an even more devastating attack on Sunday, June 12, when a gunman entered Pulse, a gay nightclub near downtown Orlando, and shot and killed 49 people and injured 53 others. The shooter, Omar Mateen, was killed by Orlando police after a three hour standoff. Mateen had expressed hatred for gay people and had sworn allegiance to ISIS. Continue reading

Freeline Media Review: “Nine”

Jane Shepard's play "Nine" is being performed at the Orlando Fringe festival.

Jane Shepard’s play “Nine” is being performed at the Orlando Fringe festival.

ORLANDO — As she stands over the woman kneeling close by her, the first thing you notice is the strength and authority in the woman’s voice.
There’s a great deal of compassion as well. The woman nearby looks totally devastating, but rather than trying to quietly console her, to be empathetic to her pain, to gently reassure her, the woman standing up approaches the situation in an entirely different way. She keeps pushing the other woman to get over it. Get up. it’s not going to get any better, so you just have to deal with it.
The woman on her knees isn’t ready to hear this. She wants her to stop talking.
But she doesn’t. She keeps pushing her to fight back in the only way she can, by finding some inner strength, by getting stronger.
And in those first few moments, the scene feels like it could apply to scores of different scenarios: a woman reaching out to a heartbroken daughter. Two lovers reacting after a bitter feud. A co-worker assisting someone who has just been fired.
Of course, no one in the audience is likely to assume the play “Nine” is heading in any of these directions. Both women have steel chains around their necks, and they are prisoners. It’s immediately obvious this is not an American prison cell: the women are not in standard prison jumpsuits but in torn clothing. And both are covered, from their legs to their arms to their faces, in ugly bruises and wounds. Continue reading

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