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  1. #1

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    Asia Theme Parks battle: Universal Studios in India, Paramount Park in Osaka, & more



    In a previous article, last July, i told you about the theme parks battle about to begin in Asia. You even had a list of these upcoming theme parks projects. And you know what? It seems that the battle is going to be even worse!

    In another previous article called "After Singapore, where will be built the next Universal Studios?" i told you what a good idea it would be for Universal - strategically speaking - to open a theme park in India while Disney can't do it at this time and will obviously wait for Shanghaî Disneyland to open before going anywhere else, specially in India. I was also saying that "Mumbaî (Bombay) could be the right place...as Mumbai is the home of the famous Bollywood movies studios, the largest film producer in India and one of the largest in the world if not the largest. What place could be better for a theme park movie studio? Young Indians are aware of all major American blockbusters..."

    And guess what I've read recently in the Wall Street Journal ? This:
    The Wall Street Journal reports that Reliance ADA Group is negotiating with Universal Studios to replicate its movie-themed amusement parks in India. The result would be a $1.5 billion new park that covers 400 acres --in either New Delhi or Mumbai--and would combine Universal park attractions with others devoted to Bollywood films.

    Universal would take a licensing fee for its branded attractions that include themed attractions involving such Marvel Comics characters as Spider-Man, The Hulk and Doctor Doom--deals made well before theme park rival Disney bought Marvel--as well as Dr. Seuss attractions. There are also the venerable rides based on the films of Reliance's DreamWorks partner Steven Spielberg--who gets a cut of theme park receipts--with Jaws, E.T. and Jurassic Park...
    As i don't think Universal execs get ideas for new theme parks from Disney and More we'll say that my intuition was not too bad... But there is another important news about Asia and this one i didn't see coming: Paramount Parks is looking to open a new theme park in 2014 in Japan. And where in Japan, you ask? Well, they're planning to open it in Osaka! That's right, the same Osaka where Universal Studios Japan reigns...until now. Mmmh...I have the feeling they're not gonna like this at Universal...

    Actually it seems that Paramount will only design the park and not be an investor in it as you'll learn from this Bloomberg news article:

    Sun Capital Management Corp., a Japanese property fund operator, is seeking to secure 145 billion yen ($1.5 billion) for its bid to open a Paramount Pictures entertainment complex in Osaka as early as 2014.

    Sun Capital said in July it was negotiating with Viacom Inc.’s Paramount Licensing to develop the theme park on a 40- hectare (99-acre) site that was developed for Osaka’s 1970 World Exposition. The government-owned site has been idle since last year, when the company that operated an amusement facility there went bankrupt.
    So, it seems that we have to add two more theme parks in the list of Asia future theme parks... However it's one thing to open a park and another one to have all the rides working every day... Universal Singapore which is still waiting for its Grand Opening celebration (even if the park opened six months ago!) have currently many "E-Ticket" problems.



    The Battlestar Galactica dueling coaster closed a few weeks after March opening and apparently it will not re-open before the end of the year. According to the official press release "On 25 March 2010, during its morning test cycle, BSG experienced a component failure of a ride seat post support that resulted in the detachment of a seat assembly. No one was on the ride and no one was injured. The ride was immediately shut down for investigative inspection and testing." And since then Vekoma, the ride manufacturer, is struggling to resolve the problem... "After months of cycling the ride with load-test and strain measurement equipment, Vekoma Rides has concluded that higher than anticipated stress and vibration levels caused fatigue cracks to develop in a welded component on the ride’s seat-post support. Vekoma Rides and Universal Studios Singapore have agreed that a new machined seat-post component will replace the original welded component (eliminating the weld entirely) and that additional strength-reinforcement parts will also be added".



    Also, the awaited Madagascar flume ride - supposed to open in June is always not ready and will not open, too, before next winter and the Jurassic Park raft ride have regularly problems and is going down almost every day. Considering that these three rides are E-Ticket rides (the fourth E-Ticket is the Revenge of the Mummy coaster which, thanks God, is still working) you'll understand that Universal Singapore is right now seriously lacking of major rides. Universal is of course unhappy and from what i've been told has sent a "Swat team" over to Singapore to fix the problems, but it will take time.

    But for Universal Singapore officially everything is going fine as they keep saying that the park is sold out on week-ends. As the excellent Sentosa blog notes: "that's a joke, due to the fact that USS only lets in about 4,000 to 5,000 people into a park meant for about 13,000..." One of my sources even told me that Singaporeans don't really care about the rides anyway, they come for the Casino which is making lots of money!

    Next year the Transformers attraction - another E-Ticket ride - will open and my feeling is that we'll have to wait for this new ride to open to get the Universal Singapore Grand Opening celebration...

    Anyway, good news or bad news, lot of things are happening in Asia and that's only the beginning!

    Pictures: copyright Universal Studios Singapore


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  2. #2

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    Re: Asia Theme Parks battle: Universal Studios in India, Paramount Park in Osaka, & m

    Very interesting. India is a no brainer. It is a huge economy. While most folks think of India as a 3rd World country (which it is) it is also a very rich country in pockets. There is a lot of wealth to be found throughout India. More than enough to fuel more than one major theme park (India is a huge country).

    I worked in India for many years and can tell you that they crave US style products and services. US style malls, shops and restaurants have popped up across the country. US style movies have also been gaining in popularity, though Indian style Bollywood movies are by far the most popular and rival Hollywood for their export value. Indian movies are exported around the world but are particularly popular in parts of Asia and the Middle East.

    I think that Disney in particular could benefit from a park in India for many reasons. 1) Brand growth in the 2nd largest country in the world (and one of the fastest growing economies. 2) Operational efficiencies - an operational support and call center built on the property of a Disney park could eventually save Disney millions of dollars in high cost US labor. HOWEVER, this should only be done once a support staff can be trained to US standards (which is NOT always easy to do in India). This was my job for many years. 3) Help establish Disney as an alternate Bollywood brand. Aside from importing US titles to India, Disney is trying to create its own unique Indian content as well. A high profile Disney theme park in India would help fuel visibility of Disney, its products, and build brand loyalty.

    Indians are crazy about "Multi-national Organizations." It makes them feel as though their country is on the path for world dominance (which they may very well be some day). A Disney sized company setting up shop in Mumbai, Delhi, Goa or any of a number of other cities could rocket Disney to a whole new level of revenue. A local Indian theme park would certainly help Disney sell infinitely more merchandise, movies, and related licensed products.

    The same could be said for Universal, but I wouldn't think their brand would mesh as well with the Indian market. Indian entertainment is much more wholesome and family friendly than the average US consumer entertainment is. Disney comes closer than just about any other US entertainment company to matching the Indian ideal. Though the American themes won't always translate well to an Indian audience.

    I'm encouraged to see all this growth in the Asian theme park market and hope that at least some of the fantastic new ideas will trickle back down to the parks in the states. A lot of creativity and rethinking of how parks look and function have been going into these new entertainment destinations. There is a lot we will eventually learn about the future of the industry from these parks.

    -Dusty
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    Re: Asia Theme Parks battle: Universal Studios in India, Paramount Park in Osaka, & m

    Vibration levels on a Vekoma coaster!!! Say it's not so!!!

    (for those of you who don't get the joke, Vekoma is WELL known for the rough coasters, such as Boomerang's)


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    Re: Asia Theme Parks battle: Universal Studios in India, Paramount Park in Osaka, & m

    very interesting article.
    USS looks like such a cool park, however its a real shame that half the rides aren't working, it's as if it were cursed.
    The Universal Studios India projection sounds like a well thought out idea, relating it with Bollywood.
    I'm interested to see how Universal Studios Japan plans to rebuttal Paramount.

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    Re: Asia Theme Parks battle: Universal Studios in India, Paramount Park in Osaka, & m

    Interesting article,but am I wrong to think this was written in another language then translated? I just can't get over this paragraph...

    "Also, the awaited Madagascar flume ride - supposed to open in June is always not ready and will not open, too, before next winter and the Jurassic Park raft ride have regularly problems and is going down almost every day. Considering that these three rides are E-Ticket rides (the fourth E-Ticket is the Revenge of the Mummy coaster which, thanks God, is still working) you'll understand that Universal Singapore is right now seriously lacking of major rides. Universal is of course unhappy and from what i've been told has sent a "Swat team" over to Singapore to fix the problems, but it will take time."

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    Re: Asia Theme Parks battle: Universal Studios in India, Paramount Park in Osaka, & m

    Dusty's insight is right on... My company has been talking with theme park developers in India for a couple of years now... and although they are 'normally' slow to react... they are certainly concerned about the competition from US developers.

    And... from a business perspective... this news will only help my company (Denny Magic Studios) to nudge them to action, sooner.

    Denny Magic

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    Re: Asia Theme Parks battle: Universal Studios in India, Paramount Park in Osaka, & m

    Quote Originally Posted by kirbilicious View Post
    Interesting article,but am I wrong to think this was written in another language then translated?
    In a way, you are correct. Alain is French and speaks English as a 2nd language. He does his best to communicate his vast Disney and theme park industry knowledge to us, though sometimes the word choices may seem a bit off.

    Personally, I find it really fun to read Alain's articles and don't mind the French/English a bit.
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