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Shanghai Disneyland Passes 11 Million Visitors in Its First Year

Shanghai Disneyland welcomed more than 11 million guests in its first year of operation, the company said Friday. Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger was on hand Friday in China to celebrate the first anniversary of the Shanghai Disney Resort, which includes the Shanghai Disneyland theme park.

“Shanghai Disney Resort’s first anniversary is cause for great celebration for everyone involved in bringing this spectacular dream to life,” said Iger in a prepared statement.

Built at a cost of $5.5 billion, as a joint venture with the Shanghai municipal government, the park was the first mega-scale location-based entertainment complex built in mainland China by a foreign conglomerate.

A day earlier, the theme park put on a special charity edition of its Mandarin-language version of the “Lion King” stage musical.

In the middle of last month, Disney revealed that the park had attracted 10 million visitors in its first 11 months. That figure, including the winter period, exceeded the estimates of some local forecasters in China.

Though Disney has not publicly offered forecasts for park attendance or visitor spending, its joint venture partner previously suggested that 10-12 million visitors was its target for the first year.

Bob Chapek, head of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, confirmed that. “That figure is much faster than even our most optimistic forecasts,” he said.

Inevitably, the high-profile park has been closely scrutinized by local residents and Chinese media. Criticisms include long waiting times for rides and attractions, and for food that is too pricey.

Chapek responded to such criticism saying that guests are spending longer each day — an average of some nine and a half hours — than expected. “The satisfaction scores that we are getting from our visitors are extraordinarily high. We think more Disney is a great thing.”

Other commentators have pointed to growing competition from other upcoming facilities being built in and around the greater Shanghai area. They include Legoland, Ice World, and Polar Ocean World. Foreign groups Lotte and Six Flags are also building complexes, and a China-Hong Kong-U.S. consortium is to open a leisure, theater and entertainment complex known as the Dream Center.

Shanghai Disneyland is itself already undergoing an expansion. Construction began last November on a new Toy Story Land, the seventh such “land” in the park, which is scheduled to open in 2018.

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