Here’s some news that shouldn’t be surprising but kind of is given how theme parks have responded to the coronavirus pandemic: Universal has officially cancelled this year’s Halloween Horror Nights event. It’s an especially bad year to have to do this—it’s the 30th anniversary, after all—but unfortunately there are far scarier things in the world today than a community theater actor in a Michael Myers mask.
If you haven’t been, Halloween Horror Nights is an annual event at Universal’s theme parks in Orlando, Hollywood, Osaka and Singapore. After a disastrous first run in Hollywood in 1986 that resulted in the accidental death of an employee, it took root as an annual event in Florida in 1991, before gradually spreading to Universal’s other parks. The Orlando version has been held every year since ‘91, and if it had happened 2020’s would’ve been the 30th installment.
Universal Studios Florida reopened in early June, over a month before its main rival, Disney World. The mazes for Halloween Horror Nights are large, elaborate affairs that take a long time to plan and build, and with a launch scheduled for early September, they were reportedly already under construction. A Halloween-themed tribute store was also visibly being set up within the Orlando park. So the decision to cancel must have been made recently. It’s the right call, of course—it’s already hard to safely run a theme park during this pandemic, but it would be downright impossible to run an event set in tight quarters and built on people screaming directly into the faces of others. And although most of those screamers are wearing masks, there’s a big difference between an N95 and a latex Demogorgon mask.
Although this is the right and responsible call, it’s still a bummer—another reminder of how thoroughly this pandemic has disrupted our daily lives. Hopefully 2021’s Halloween Horror Nights will be the best one ever.