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National Geographic Launching Family Entertainment Centers in China (EXCLUSIVE)

National Geographic is launching a series of family-oriented indoor exploration centers, starting with two sites in China.

The venerable non-profit brand has signed with iP2Entertainment for the venture, which will draw on National Geographic’s content and offer attractions, interactive demonstrations and hands-on workshops. The sites will be geared toward families with school-aged children, ages 5 to 12.

National Geographic and iP2 have teamed with China-based retail specialist K11 to develop its first location in Shenyang, China, in the Shenyang K11 Art Mall as a “museum retail” concept that aims to be the world’s largest cultural and art experience center.

The first location is planned to open in the summer of 2017. A second branded exploration center is also in development on the Chinese island of Hengqin.

“The National Geographic-branded entertainment centers that we’re developing will provide parents and their children with a fun and interactive way to learn about animals, science and exploration by engaging with our award-winning content,” said Andy Reif, an exec VP with National Geographic Partners.

The centers will offer simulations of rainforests, deserts, frozen polar regions, deep oceans and outer space, and allow children to interact with animals, solve puzzles and overcome physical challenges.

Peter Poon, president of iP2Entertainment Asia, told Variety that the project makes sense on several fronts.

“First, National Geographic is a global brand that reaches over 700 million people everyday and it has already established amazing goodwill and presence in China that continues to grow,” he said. “Second, China has a lot of young families who place an emphasis on education, culture and imagination. Our centers will combine all three of these core National Geographic attributes into a destination designed to inspire Chinese families to explore the world around them.”

The Shenyang location will be National Geographic’s first foray into the world of branded entertainment centers. National Geographic said the family entertainment centers serve as National Geographic’s next step in providing entertainment experiences aimed at connecting families worldwide to the brand.

National Geographic noted that its National Geographic Live produces public programs in 15 North American venues and 11 international venues, and that its traveling exhibitions have been seen by more than 20 million visitors since launching in 2009. It also said that a portion of the proceeds from the National Geographic-branded entertainment centers will support the National Geographic Society’s nonprofit work in conservation, exploration, research and education.

“We are creating a state of art place where international brands can come together to deliver an ultimate consumer experience, the cooperation with National Geographic and iP2 entertainment is a good start,” said Adrian Cheng, founder of K11 Art Foundation and K11.

The announcement of the move into entertainment centers comes nine months after 21st Century Fox expanded its holdings in the National Geographic brand with a $725 million deal that added the venerable magazine and other assets into the companies’ longstanding joint venture covering U.S. and international TV channels.

Under that deal, Fox owns 73% of the expanded National Geographic Partners entity and the non-profit National Geographic Society owns the remaining 27%.

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