The roster of Hollywood names crowding into China’s theme park scene became a bit more crowded this week when Universal Studios announced that it would be teaming with Chinese state-run developers for a $3.25 billion theme park in Beijing.
Universal Beijing is to be constructed on a 300-acre site in the suburbs of China’s capital, before later expanding over 1,000 acres, according to a statement from Universal at a Beijing launch ceremony.
The move by Universal means that it is joining a field that already includes Shanghai projects by Hollywood rivals Disney and Dreamworks, as well as a chain of domestic theme parks being developed by Dalian Wanda, the property firm belonging to China’s richest man, Wang Jianlin.
Universal Beijing Targetted for 2019
While Universal refused to give a firm launch date for the new development, industry sources indicated that the new theme park will be ready in 2019.
The development will include a Universal CityWalk entertainment complex, involving multiple retail, dining and entertainment facilities, as well as the first-ever Universal-themed resort hotel.
The US entertainment firm will be cooperating in its initial China venture with Beijing Shouhuan Cultural Tourism Investment (BSH Investment), a consortium of four state-owned companies.
Universal said that Steven Spielberg, who directed Jaws, ET, and many other movie classics will help to design the new theme park. Spielberg already has some history with China, having travelled here in 1987 to film World War II era drama “Empire of the Sun.”
Theme Parks Becoming Fashionable in China
The decision by Universal to enter the China theme park market follows similar moves by Disney and Dreamworks.
The Shanghai Disney Resort is being built by Walt Disney Parks and Resorts and will be the first Disney park in mainland China. The resort is scheduled to open in December 15, 2015.
US film studio DreamWorks Animation, together with two partners, in March this year celebrated plans for a RMB 15 billion ($2.4 billion) entertainment district in Shanghai that the group says will rival New York’s Broadway.
Not to be outdone by foreign competitors, China’s richest property developer, Wang Jianlin announced in January of this year that his company, Dalian Wanda, intends to transform the cultural tourism industry by building ten cultural theme parks across China, in locations including Qingdao, Hefei, and Xishuangbanna.