SEOUL (Reuters) - Hollywood studio MGM plans to bring its roaring lion trademark to an Asian tiger economy by opening its first overseas theme park in South Korea, officials said on Wednesday.
Officials from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the southern South Korean port city of Pusan and South Korean entertainment company Glovit signed a memorandum of understanding to build the MGM theme park.
The park in Pusan will face stiff competition from two popular theme parks in the Seoul area, Disney parks in Tokyo and Hong Kong as well as a Universal Studios theme park in Osaka.
Glovit Chairman Lee Seong-yong told a news conference it would cost about 1 trillion won ($1.02 billion) to construct MGM Studio City and said the company expected to complete the project in four to five years.
MGM is not making an investment in the park but does have the option to purchase a 5 percent to 10 percent share, Lee said.
MGM officials said details of the park were still being worked out but they expect it to have some 27 attractions, hotels, shops, a film academy with movie sets and an entertainment school.
MGM, home of the James Bond and Pink Panther movies, will provide its creative energy to the project as part of a licensing deal. Pusan is providing breaks on taxes as well as the land for the park.
"We do expect that this project will be very viable to many Korean consumers," said Travis Rutherford, an MGM executive vice president, who declined to give projections for attendance.
Pusan Mayor Hur Nam-sik said he thought the park could attract as many as 5 million people a year.
The estimate may be a bit optimistic considering recently opened Hong Kong Disneyland, built at a cost of $1.8 billion, is expected to draw 5.6 million visitors in its first year. Hong Kong's population is nearly twice as large as Pusan's population of 3.7 million.
The largest non-Disney theme park in Asia, Universal Studios Japan in Osaka, has reported several years of losses since opening in 2001. It attracts about 8 million visitors a year.