Despite the coronavirus pandemic and increasingly heated tensions between the U.S. and China, Universal Studios Beijing is expected to open to the public on schedule in May of next year, its general manager said Wednesday.
Chinese reporters were recently taken on a tour of the construction site, which is in Beijing’s Tongzhou district, on the eastern side of the sprawling Chinese capital.
Construction has begun again in the wake of COVID-19 stoppages and is “progressing smoothly,” Tom Mehrmann, president and GM of the Universal Beijing resort told the Beijing News.
“Even though the pandemic had a small impact, we can speed up the work and complete construction as scheduled,” he said. “At present, our goal is still to officially open the park in 2021.”
The comments echoes remarks from the Beijing municipal government from earlier on in the pandemic in February, which said that the park would be completed by the end of the year, according to Reuters.
Universal Studios Beijing is owned by Beijing International Resort Co., a joint venture between NBC Universal’s Universal Parks and Resorts and Beijing Shouhuan Cultural Tourism Investment Company.
It is the world’s fifth Universal theme park. Approved by Chinese authorities in 2014, the park completed its phase one construction last year.
Although Chinese industry bodies have recently released a report estimating that thousands of cinemas could likely close for good nationwide, the Beijing theme park is moving ahead with plan to include a huge cineplex in its “CityWalk” district of shops and entertainment located outside the park entrance. The cinema will have 2,000 seats in 11 screening halls, and boast the largest IMAX screen in Beijing. It will be used to host premieres of future Universal movies.
Beijing’s CityWalk will also host 23 other stores, 15 restaurants, and eight global retailers. Some elements of local Chinese architecture have been worked into the design. Miao said that the retailers will “promote a cultural tourism business district and promote the development of the capital’s economy.”
A nearly two-mile-long man-made river is being built to run through the resort, and is expected to be completed by November, the Beijing municipal government said last month. The plan is for visitors to be able to enter the park by boat. Hotels lining the waterways will feature docks where visitors can board. Work was delayed on the feature from the fall, but resumed in March.
Alibaba vice president Zhao Ying has said that the firm will work with theme park to deploy facial recognition technology for entry, ticketing and other transactions.
Theme parks in China were closed for months due to the coronavirus, but began reopening last month. Shanghai Disneyland became the first Disney park to re-open worldwide on May 11, but has been operating at reduced capacity. Even Happy Valley Wuhan, a theme park located in the city that was the virus epicenter, re-opened on May 19, capping visitors to a max of 3,000 a day, according to state broadcaster CGTN.