Malaysian casino operator Genting’s resort unit is investing $300M in Fox‘s first-ever international theme park. Dubbed 20th Century Fox World, the park will include rides and attractions based on films including Ice Age, Rio, Alien Vs Predator, Planet Of The Apes and Night At The Museum. A ground-breaking ceremony was held today in the Southeast Asian country that boasts a number of theme parks, including a Legoland, but no studio-branded amusement destination. Click over for more details:
Universal Studios Hollywood is eyeing wealthier patrons’ pocketbooks as the summer swings into season. A new $299 per-person VIP ticketing option gets you into the park for a day with valet parking, continental breakfast, an unlimited front of line pass, catered gourmet lunch, and a seat on a cozy 16-person trolley. The VIP Experience, which one Uni rep likens to flying first class, also takes guests behind the scenes on the Universal backlot to sets of shows like NBC’s Parenthood and ABC’s Desperate Housewives Wisteria Lane street. Children under 5 years aren’t allowed, but Universal’s come up with a solution for families with the cash to spend: You can rent the entire trolley exclusively for a day for 16 people at $299 a pop, or just under $5K total. Disneyland, meanwhile, recently raised its prices for single-day and annual tickets.
Disney CEO Bob Iger let the frog out of the bag at the company’s annual meeting in Kansas City today. “Somewhere in my mind I know that work is being done on a sequel,” he said, before stopping himself saying he didn’t know how much has been disclosed about a second ‘The Muppets‘ movie. Iger added, in response to a question, that design work is “just beginning” for the Avatarattraction planned for Animal Kingdom in Orlando — and “in all likelihood” it won’t open until 2015. He says the company is “working on some concepts” to introduce attractions involving Marvel characters. They’re also “kicking around ideas” to enhance the presence of Pirates Of The Caribbean and Cars at the parks. “It would be tough to do walk-around characters” for Cars, he said.
Comcast CFO Mike Angelakis says that The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter was so successful for Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure that it became “a reset mechanism” for the theme park. But he stopped short of confirming reports that the company plans to bring Potter to Universal Studios Hollywood, even as he gave analysts attending the UBS Annual Global Media and Communications Conference every reason to believe that they’re accurate. Indeed, he seemed determined to avoid making news, sticking instead to Comcast’s familiar talking points: He acknowledged that there are “challenges” at NBC but says it’s also ”an opportunty for us,” adding that Comcast is “investing where we can have a level of success.” He vowed to be ”disciplined” in bidding for sports programming, calling Comcast’s agreement in June to pay $4.4B for U.S. broadcast rights to the Olympics from 2014 to 2020 “a smart deal for us.” The company also talked up its new pact to sell wireless spectrum to Verizon Wireless, with the companies cross-selling each other’s products. “We don’t have to build a wireless network,” Comcast Cable CEO Neil Smit says. “We’re thrilled.” He noted that Comcast will be able to sell Verizon Wireless phone services even in markets where the cable company competes with Verizon’s FiOS video and broadband offering.
Disney’s newly announced Avatar theme-park attraction is ”a perfect example of something that could be a needle mover” for the company’s parks operation, CFO Jay Rasulo said today at the Goldman Sachs Communicopia Conference. The arrangement with Fox and director James Cameron is “a standard licening deal” that doesn’t provide them with a percentage of ticket sales — but does share revenue from merchandise. Rasulo adds that the initiative likely won’t ”stick out llike a sore thumb” in Disney’s costs: ”We just won’t do something else we were going to do” at Animal Kingdom. After next year ”there will be a significant decline in the capital we invest in our parks,” bringing Disney “relatively closer to our historic level of spending.” That’s important to analysts who fear that construction and investment costs will hurt profit margins. “We look forward to the day when people say ‘you’re back’ and don’t ask that question anymore.”
Disney must be hoping that its new plan to build Avatar theme park attractions will be the shot in the arm the business may need. And, unbelievably, the new feature is coming courtesy of Fox Filmed Entertainment and James Cameron.
On paper, all looks well for Disney’s theme park revenues: they were up 9% to $8.7B for the three quarters that ended July 2, while operating income was up 13% to $1.1B. Also attendance has held steady. But most of the growth was due to Disney’s decision to raise prices for tickets, hotels, food, and merchandise. That probably can’t continue if the economy continues to weaken. Meanwhile, some analysts have been alarmed by the high capital expenditures for parks, which more than doubled to $2.1B in the nine-month period. Disney is still working on the $1.1B upgrade it announced in 2007 for its California Adventure park — it struck many visitors as a cheap, generic amusement park when it opened in 2001. Disney’s also investing in its Aluani Resort in Hawaii (it opens Thursday), Shanghai Disney Resort for 2016, expansion of the Hong Kong properties, a re-do of Disneyland’s Fantasyland, new cruise ships — and covering increased pension obligations.
Construction and licensing costs for the Avatar attraction from Fox and James Cameron could run about $400M, and there’ll be some revenue sharing for the merchandise. But the new project isn’t expected to change Disney’s forecast for its capital expenditures to peak … Read More »
Disney has licensed exclusive global rights to the Avatar franchise from Fox and James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment — and the director will help to develop the attractions, CEO Bob Iger says. The first will be at Animal Kingdom in Orlando. The goal, he says, is to enable visitors to “enter the Avatar universe and explore it first-hand.” Cameron adds that “to bring that to life at Animal Kingdom is fantastic because it’s so thematically aligned. … We want to do things that maybe they haven’t even thought of.” Tom Staggs, who runs Disney’s theme parks, says the company is “just beginning the development phase” for a complex that will begin construction in 2013 and include Avatar-themed shops and food destinations to “bring that world to life.” Although he wouldn’t say how much the company has budgeted, he compared the scope of the first project to the 12-acre Cars Land site at Disney California Adventure Park. Cameron is working on two Avatar sequels that he plans to release around Christmas 2014 and 2015. ”That seems to correspond well” with the park plans, he says — noting that the destination will include environmental features that don’t appear in the movie. Iger says the attraction will open after the movies, although “we’re in the ballpark.” Avatar will add jobs in the ”low single digit thousands,” Staggs says. Here’s the release:
BURBANK, Calif. — Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Worldwide is joining forces with visionary filmmaker James Cameron and Fox Filmed Entertainment to bring the world of AVATAR to life at Disney parks. Through an exclusive agreement announced today by Disney, Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment and Fox, Disney will partner with Cameron and producing partner Jon Landau to create themed lands that will give theme park guests the opportunity to explore the mysterious universe of AVATAR first hand. Disney plans to build the first AVATAR themed land at Walt Disney World, within the Animal Kingdom park. With its emphasis on living in harmony with nature, Animal Kingdom is a natural fit for the AVATAR stories, which share the same philosophy. Construction is expected to begin by 2013.
The two Tokyo theme parks have been closed since last Friday’s earthquake and tsunami (they were used as shelters for park-goers stranded following the quake), and now the Burbank-based company is temporarily suspending operations in the city’s stores and administrative offices. “Our top priority is the well-being of our employees and their families during this challenging time and we will continue to closely monitor the situation as it develops,” Disney said in a statement. The decision comes as the U.S. Embassy today offered citizens safe transport out of the country, joining other nations in advising nationals to stay at least 50 miles from the unstable Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant, which lies about 130 miles to the north of Tokyo.
It’s a nice problem to have if you’re the Walt Disney Co — but not if you’re trying to visit the Anaheim theme parks. I’m told that both yesterday and today Disneyland began turning away would-be visitors within hours of opening and then redirected them to California Adventure until that park reached capacity, too. Sounds like The Happiest Place On Earth could be the grumpiest judging by this alert which the Disneyland Twitter site has been sending out regularly:
Disneyland Resort extremely popular today. Disneyland and Disney California Adventure access temporarily limited.
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. Universal’s Islands of Adventure just opened an entire wing of the park devoted to the Warner Bros franchise Harry Potter, which recently opened after two years of construction, highlighted by a ridiculously ambitious simulator ride housed within a replica of Hogwarts Academy that has been carved into a faux mountainside setting that is as overwhelming as the $200 million I’m told was spent to build it. WSJ qualifies that the deal is in the talking stage, but it would mark Reliance’s latest foray into Hollywood. Besides its partnership with DreamWorks, Reliance made first look deals with the production companies of Brad Pitt, Chris Columbus, Jay Roach, George Clooney, Jim Carrey, Tom Hanks, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, Nicolas Cage and … Read More »
UPDATE: Luke Y Thompsonreports from Comic-Con 2010 today: Walt Disney Studios ended the TRON panel with a surprise: the logo of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion ride! The green drawing of a ghost was shown along with some of the spiel from the ride. The audience is asked who it thinks the perfect director would be. Crowd yells out “Tim Burton,” but goes crazy when Guillermo Del Toro comes out! He says he’s nervous because it’s a Disney panel, which limits his vocabulary. He says he has ridden the ride at least once a year since he was a kid, and notes he always felt there were more story possibilities than just a horror movie. That said, “the scary will be scary. We’re being true to the spirit of the original Imagineers… We are not returning Eddie Murphy’s call.” It will be shot in 3D, live-action, and the Hatbox Ghost is the pivotal character.
End panel, for real this time.
SAN DIEGO, Calif. – July 22, 2010 –Guillermo del Toro surprised the 6,500 fans gathered today at Comic-Con with the announcement that he is currently developing a new film for The Walt Disney Studios based on the classic Disney theme park attraction, The Haunted Mansion.
“Dark imagery is an integral part of the Walt Disney legacy. After all, Disney himself was the father of some really chilling moments and characters –
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort celebrated its grand opening today after 5 years in the making. “I said right at the beginning, either we do it right or we don’t do it at all,” J.K. Rowling said in a statement. “The teams at Universal and Warner Bros have done it right, so I am so happy.”
I still say ugh to such crass commercialism. But the studio tells me that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort kicked off its grand opening celebration last night with help from Harry Potter film franchise stars Daniel Radcliffe, Tom Felton, Michael Gambon, Bonnie Wright, Oliver Phelps, Matthew Lewis, Warwick Davis, Rupert Grint and James Phelps. Hundreds of people gathered in front of Hogwarts Castle for a spectacular display of fireworks choreographed to a special performance of music from the Harry Potter films conducted live by composer John Williams. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter will officially grand open to the public this Friday.
The studio ignored London mayor Boris Johnson’s plea to site the Wizarding World of Harry Potter over here rather than Florida. Johnson has called for the public to write to Warner Bros, petitioning for a second theme park to be built in London.
Mayor Johnson says it would be “utterly mad” to leave it to Americans “to make money from a great British invention”.
“I appeal to the children of this country and to their Potter-fiend parents to write to Warner Bros and Universal, and perhaps, even, to the great JK herself” Johnson has written in his weekly Daily Telegraph newspaper column.
It sounds as if Mayor Johnson left it too late anyway. He wrote to Warner Bros 18 months ago, well after the studio’s discussions with Universal Studios theme parks were underway. The mayor’s spokesman says Florida made Warner an offer London could not match.
Presumably, Warner Bros also shuddered at the labyrinthine planning permissions you would need to build a theme park in London. The studio wanted to build a theme park in Hillingdon, west London back in the 90s but the plan never came to anything.
Johnson makes the point that JK Rowling is no flash in the pan. Harry Potter is going to be with us for generations. After all, JK Rowling’s books have sold about 400 million copies compared with 250 million for Asterix and 160 million for Tintin. Fellow children’s authors Enid Blyton and Beatrix Potter have sold … Read More »
(SEOUL January 19, 2010) A consortium of reputable South Korean conglomerates led by Lotte Group signed a Framework Agreement in Seoul today announcing the multi-billion dollar Universal Studios Korea Theme Park and Resort project at Gyeonggi Province of South Korea. Universal Studios Korea Resort (USKR) will include a state-of-the-art Universal Studios theme park, Universal CityWalk, a retail, dining and entertainment complex, a championship 18-hole golf course, themed hotels, a water park, premium retail outlet and hypermarket, as well as condos.
“Korea is a great business opportunity for Universal Parks & Resorts. We are excited to be working with an esteemed group of Korean corporations under the leadership of Lotte, and we are thankful for the strong support of the Korean government,” said Tom Williams, Chairman and CEO, Universal Parks & Resorts.
In December 2009, the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs of South Korea announced the Metropolitan Transportation Improvement Plan which confirmed various highway and railway extension plans were underway to provide the necessary transportation infrastructure for USKR.
“Universal Studios Korea shows our continuous commitment to growing our business in Asia,” said Williams.”
Highlights not before announced include:
New project business partner with extensive theme park experience
Construction and opening timetable schedules
Employment data and park site size
Approval of Korean Government Metropolitan Transportation Improvement Plan to build highway/transportation infrastructure to support the major theme park resort.
BREAKING NEWS! 4TH UPDATE: The Disney press release finally came in at 10:24 AM (see below). I first heard the rumor at 10:00 AM, and confirmed it minutes later. Wow, what a shocker from Walt Disney CEO Bob Iger who once again is demonstrating more out-of-the-box thinking and more willingness to shake up the status quo by buying Pixar and Marvel, and moving TV guy Rich Ross to Walt Disney Studios. Iger’s actions keep surprising not just the company but also Hollywood and Wall Street. And I hear that internally he’s also promising more job swaps in the future. Disney planned to announce this first switch later today when it reported its earnings: it means Disney SVP/CFO Tom Staggs will move over to chairman of theme parks and resorts, and Chairman of Disney Parks and Resorts Jay Rasulo will move over to EVP/CFO.
But Disney insiders are denying outside speculation to me that Staggs may be in line for Disney COO yet the board won’t let him have that title until he has more operational experience. And, with Disney theme parks and resorts expanding into Shanghai, etc, this is an area where Staggs could make a name for himself. Disney insiders insist that Iger is feeling no pressure to name a successor since he’s relatively young and not going anywhere soon. Instead, I’m told that Iger sees this job swap, and more like it, as a way to motivate … Read More »
This is a huge concession by Steven Spielberg, who has had a longstanding 2% consulting deal with Universal theme parks dating back to January 20, 1987, and the days when Lew Wasserman/Sid Sheinberg controlled the studio. Nowadays, that’s worth $50 million a year to the director and includes theme parks in Florida, Osaka, and additional projects contemplated in Singapore, Dubai, etc. Earlier this year, Universal asked Spielberg to delay for 5 years his ‘”put” deal — his right to have the studio buy him out of the parks deal in a year. At that point, Spielberg said no. But now he’s agreed to shift it to 2017.
The new terms also include provisions for a sale of NBC Universal including the theme parks: “If the Partnership and/or its Affiliates transfer ownership of their equity interests, if any, in the Florida Project and any then-existing Comparable Projects as a unit to a new owner, provided that as of the date of such change of ownership, the financial condition of the new owner reasonably appears to Steven to be sufficiently strong to enable the new owner to comply with its obligations to Steven and such new owner assumes for Steven’s benefit all of the Partnership’s obligations to Steven in writing, Steven will look solely to the new owner for any obligations accruing or arising after said date and the guarantees by … Read More »