Harry Potter has been a phenomenon at Universal Orlando. Since the original Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade opened in 2010, attendance and revenue have soared at the Florida resort. The inevitable expansion, Diagon Alley, opened to great acclaim and crowds in July 2014. From its debut, huge lines have been the norm for the centerpiece attraction, Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts.
Scarcely a month after it began chugging, Universal announced that the one millionth passenger had boarded the Hogwarts Express. The testimonial was especially stunning considering that guests need upgraded park-to-park tickets to ride the themed train.
It should come as no surprise, then, that Universal has exported the Wizarding World to its other parks, including Japan and Hollywood. Amid all the Harry hoopla, what else might Universal have in store for the boy wizard at the Florida resort where it all began? It just may have something to do with the Ministry of Magic.
This prophecy has nothing to do with divination, the branch of magic devoted to predicting the future that is taught at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Instead of gazing into a crystal ball, Alan Gilmore, the art director for Universal's Wizarding World projects and many of the Harry Potter films, gave me a few clues about what may be next for Harry and the gang.
The Devil, er Voldermort, Is in the Details
During a media preview, Gilmore graciously led me on a tour of Diagon Alley and pointed out some of the land's rich and multi-layered details. While we were in the London embankment area, for example, he brought me to the two phone boxes located near the entrance to King's Cross Station.
The iconic, bright red booths are actual phone boxes that Universal imported from the U.K.
Motioning me inside one of the boxes, Gilmore instructed me to dial "6-2-4-4-2," which spells "M-A-G-I-C" on the phone's old-fashioned rotary dial. Doing so connected me to a recorded message from none other than the Ministry of Magic. The operator kindly informed me that the Ministry was not open that day. It was a cool discovery. (Try it yourself and amaze your park mates.) But Gilmore had more to say.
"It may be a hint of the next Potter thing," he teased. "By giving muggles access to the Ministry of Magic, we're feeding the fire a bit." Do go on!
Dial "M" for "Magic"
Every Potterphile surely knows already, but Gilmore explained that visitors to the Ministry of Magic reach the secretive place by entering a phone box and dialing -- of course -- "6-2-4-4-2." (It's a considerably less gross means of access than Voldermort's method of flushing oneself down a toilet. Yich.) "Wouldn't it be great if guests could enter a phone box and visit the Ministry of Magic?" Gilmore asked. Why yes. Yes it would. "It may be in the future. Who knows?" he said with a twinkle in his eye.
Does this mean that a Ministry of Magic attraction is definitely on its way?
Nope. But it's a strong endorsement from somebody high up on Universal's creative team. It's a pretty safe bet that something is brewing in Potterville from the folks who invented butterbeer and watched its sales go bonkers. And a Ministry ride certainly sounds plausible.
Perhaps those of you trained in the art of divination could take a peek into the future and let us know whether this prophecy will come true. I'd be happy to buy you a round of butterbeers for your troubles.