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Comcast Holding Steady at Shanghai Dream Center

U.S. entertainment giant Comcast is holding firm in a largely backseat role at the Dream Center, a massive location-based entertainment venture being built in Shanghai.

The entertainment, dining and shopping complex has a construction cost of $2.4 billion. It is expected to be completed in 2018 under the control of its existing shareholders who also include China Media Capital, CDB, and Hong Kong’s Lan Kwai Fong group.

An earlier version of this story cited the head of Lan Kwai Fong, Dr Allan Zeman who was interviewed by Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post, and appeared to say that Comcast-owned DreamWorks was pulling out.

“The Dream in Dream Center doesn’t necessarily have to be with DreamWorks. You have the China Dream too. It just so happens that DreamWorks was there when we named it. It’s a good name, so we will keep it,” Zeman told the SCMP.

However, in emails and phone conversations with Variety, Zeman said that DreamWorks Animation had only ever taken a passive, financial role in the Dream Center. Under Comcast ownership, DreamWorks Animation has not changed that role.

“DreamWorks weren’t really involved on a day-to-day basis, so this hasn’t really changed anything for the Shanghai Dream Center,” said Zeman.

“We envisioned the Dream Center as a kind of second Broadway. CMC is involved in bringing shows and content. Lan Kwai Fong is involved in planning and construction. DreamWorks Animation is as involved as they were from the beginning, which is not very much,” Zeman told Variety.

DWA/ComCast is still an original shareholder of the project. The project will not need new financing or partners.” 

Zeman said that the Dream Center does not involve DreamWorks Animation characters or other intellectual property. “Dream Center was never meant to be a theme park. It was always envisioned to be a new cultural district with theater and shows from Broadway etc. This still remains as the main attraction and emphasis,” Zeman said.

DreamWorks Animation was acquired last year by Comcast, the conglomerate that already owns Universal. Since then, Jeffrey Katzenberg has stepped aside. He was both the founder of DWA and a pioneer of DWA’s twin ventures in China — the Dream Center and Oriental DreamWorks — both involving Li Ruigang and China Media Capital.

Variety has previously reported that Comcast has held talks to sell its 45% stake in the Oriental DreamWorks animation production joint venture to CMC.

Comcast’s takeover of DreamWorks Animation was investigated last year by Chinese competition authorities on possible monopoly grounds. Chinese authorities did not reveal whether the animation production operations of Oriental DreamWorks or Comcast’s location based entertainment facilities was the focus of the probe. Universal Parks & Resorts has begun construction of a theme park that is expected to open in 2020 near Beijing.

Walt Disney opened its Shanghai Disney Resort in June of last year. Amid a tourism and travel boom in China, the park quickly attracted criticism from Dalian Wanda, a powerful local competitor which is building its own parks and attractions across China.

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