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Universal Signs Beijing Theme Park Deal

Universal Studios has confirmed plans to build a Hollywood-style theme park near Beijing. The park will open in 2019.

The park, previously mooted in October last year, is a joint venture between Universal Parks & Resorts and Beijing Shouhuan, itself a consortium of four state owned companies. Together they will invest in and operate the park.

China’s cabinet approved an outline of the project in September last year. The deal was finally signed this week at the New York offices of Comcast NBCUniversal, with Brian Roberts, chairman and CEO of Comcast Corp. and Shouhuan’s general manager, Yu Xuezhong, in attendance, according to Chinese sources.

The park, in the Tongzhou district to the East of the Chinese capital, will be built in two phases. The first, at 120 hectares (300 acres) will include entertainment and the first ever Universal-branded hotel. The second phase, potentially expanding it to 400 hectares (1,000 acres) is planned to add a further theme park, a water park and five more hotels.

Concept art seen last year appeared to show attractions including Wizarding World of Harry Potter, including Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, Transformers, Revenge of the Mummy, Jurassic Park, and DreamWorks Animation’s Madagascar.

Total investment has been reported as $7.8 billion (RMB50 billion), though it is not clear how much of that will be spent by the joint venture partners. The figure is understood to include costs for extending Beijing’s subway system. At a press event in Beijing last year, Universal pegged the cost at RMB20 billion.

The park will be Universal’s third in Asia, after ones in Osaka Japan and Singapore.

Theme parks are a growth sector in China, driven by a growing middle class with disposable income available for tourism, leisure and consumption. Disney is expected to open its first mainland China site in Shanghai early next year. Dreamworks Animation and its partners will open their Shanghai park in 2017. Local companies including Huayi Brothers Media and Dalian Wanda are also building parks.

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