Business / Companies

Universal Studios plans $8b Beijing theme park by 2019

By Wang Zhuoqiong (China Daily) Updated: 2015-09-16 06:58

Universal Studios plans $8b Beijing theme park by 2019

A girl laughs while standing with a purple Evil Minion character at the new "Despicable Me Minion Mayhem" ride during technical rehearsals for the new attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood in Universal City, California March 28, 2014. [Photo/Agencies]

Plans by Universal Studios Inc, the United States film giant, to open an $8 billion Hollywood theme park in 2019 in Beijing face both opportunities in a booming amusement park market, and challenges in operating in cold weather, analysts said on Tuesday.

Universal Parks & Resorts, a division of NBC Universal, which owns Universal Studios Hollywood, is partnering with Beijing Shouhuan Cultural Tourism Investment Co Ltd, a consortium of four State-owned companies, to invest in and operate the project.

A signing ceremony for the joint venture took place on Sunday at the New York headquarters of Comcast NBC Universal.

Cheng Hong, vice-mayor of Beijing, said: "The project will certainly serve as a stimulator to the city's tourism industry."

The State Council and the National Development and Reform Commission approved the park project in September last year.

It will be Universal's sixth globally and third in Asia after Singapore and Osaka in Japan.

It is expected to cover 1.2 square kilometers, twice the size of Osaka's park and five times the size of Singapore's. A second phase could then involve another theme park, a water park and a further five resort hotels, according to local media reports.

Investment in the project is reportedly likely to be more than 50 billion yuan ($8 billion), including the building of a subway line to the site.

Chris Yoshii, vice-president and global director of Leisure Asia AECOM (Hong Kong), a US-based consultancy group, said special provisions will have to be made at the site, given Beijing's harsh winters.

"The long winter will be a challenge. A high percentage of the attractions will have to be indoors including theaters, dark rides and exhibits. Also, their retail and dining facilities will predominantly be indoors."

He expected summer and holiday business to be very busy.

"The park will need to be large in order to accommodate the crowds during those periods," he said. "That's why, the park will be Universal's largest in the world."

The operators of Lotte World in South Korea, for instance, said its huge rises in attendances were almost entirely down to visitors from the Chinese mainland.

Three Chinese groups-OCT Parks China, Chimelong Group and Songcheng Worldwide-are now established among the top 10 theme-park groups worldwide, said the research.

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