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Universal gets scarier

Orlando Sentinel

Original Article »

June 28, 2007

The fearsome threesome of New Line Cinema slasher films -- Jason, Freddy Krueger and Leatherface -- are bringing their knives, claws and chainsaws to Universal Studios' Halloween Horror Nights this fall.

Universal Orlando announced Wednesday that it has reached a deal with New Line Cinema to use the three iconic horror-movie characters in its annual nighttime scare-fest event, which runs weekends around Halloween.

It's the first time New Line Cinema has given any theme park the rights to use the characters from the popular Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street and Texas Chainsaw Massacre series of movies. Universal Studios-Hollywood also will use the three characters in its Halloween event.

"We're obviously extremely excited about it. It's going to be a great addition to what is already a great event," said Jim Timon, Universal's senior vice president of entertainment. "We're thrilled."

Universal officials declined to detail how the three characters will be used, except to say they'll appear throughout, in haunted houses and out in the streets, joining many old Halloween Horror Nights characters.

"We're going to bring them physically to life. That's the cool thing," Timon said.

The 17th annual Halloween Horror Nights, which runs weekends from Sept. 28 to Nov. 3 this year, with a mix of street entertainment and numerous haunted houses, is critical to Universal's bottom line. Although Universal won't elaborate, officials have acknowledged that the added events provide major boosts to the resort's attendance and revenue.

Basic tickets cost $64.95, though Universal frequently offers discount packages.

Whether Jason, Freddy and Leatherface will bolster attendance this year remains to be seen.

One industry expert, Leonard Pickel, editor of Haunted Attractions Magazine, said the three characters have their fan bases -- but also turn off many people.

Still, he said they likely would be strong additions to Universal's homegrown creepy characters, such as the Storyteller and the Director.

"I can see it as being a strong play," Pickel said. "What that's going to do is provide, on the one hand, the ability to take characters that are already like the modern-day Frankenstein, Dracula and Werewolf, and put them in context. It's an interesting move."

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