Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Happiest Place In the Middle Kingdom

... happens this spring.

... The Disney Shanghai Resort, which takes up about a fifth of the Shanghai International Tourism and Resorts Zone, is less than half an hour by car from the financial district of China’s wealthiest and most populous city, but it feels like a kingdom all its own. Six square miles of the zone are vacant, set aside by Chinese authorities as part of a decades-long plan to draw tourists here. ...

Disney Chief Executive Officer Robert Iger has called it the greatest opportunity the company has had since Walt Disney himself bought land in Central Florida in the 1960s. ...

Disney’s local partner -- the state-owned Shanghai Shendi Group, which will own 57 percent of the resort and contribute about $2.1 billion of the equity -- is under pressure to get it right, too, after China’s long orgy of real estate speculation. ... Disney, betting on China’s rising middle class with its largest foreign investment ever, has a lot of competition.

On the other side of the Huangpu River from Disney’s resort, DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. and its local partners are building the $2.4 billion Shanghai Dream Center. Scheduled to open in late 2017, it will feature an animation studio, live performance venues and an attraction tentatively called the Kung Fu Panda Experience. ...

A lot of entertainment companies are betting big that China will keep growing ... and continue contributing to their bottom lines. It's a lot about theme parks, but Disney, DreamWorks and others have their eyes on China's domest movie market too.

Everybody has learned, as Disney did decades ago, that theme parks, movies and shelves full of toys, games and action figures are all slices of the same huge pie, all of the lucrative and each one interlocking with the others. A hit animated motion pictures triggers the building of an amusement park attraction, and high mounds of high-margin merchandise.

They don't call it "synergy" for nothing.


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