Sunday, February 28, 2010
When Universal Studios Singapore will finally open - and so far they're talking about March 10 for a soft-opening of the park - what will be the next destination for a future Universal Studios theme park? Well, as we've seen in a previous article they do have a project in South Korea (concept-art above). But recently i was told that although some of the people who worked on Universal Singapore are contracted to do one more Universal Theme Park in Asia, the one announced for South Korea might not be the one...
Ho-Ho, i thought, what could that mean? I couldn't have more details but i started to think if there was a good reason that the South Korea project might not be Universal Studios future destination. Now, before i go further, please note that next paragraphs are pure personal thoughts, nothing that is written below must be taken as official or even the truth because it's not - or may be it will be, time will tell.
The first thing which is interesting to note is that Universal Studios Korea opening date was scheduled for 2014. And so, you ask? Well, 2014 is also the scheduled opening date for Shanghaî Disneyland! And, considering that South Korea is so close to China AND Shanghaî AND that Universal know that Shanghaî Disneyland opening will be one of 2014 major events they might think it won't be a good idea to open a new theme park that same year, especially one that will be at only two hours flight from Shanghaî. In two words, knowing the Disney marketing machine - and that Shanghai Disneyland will include many elements to please a Chinese/Asian audience - the timing might not be the best to open a Universal Studios in South Korea. If this info that next Universal Studios in Asia will not be in South Korea is right, then this could be a good reason. Another good reason could be the two others theme parks projects that Paramount and MGM are planning to build in South Korea...
But if South Korea is not Universal next destination in Asia, then where will it be? We know that Universal have parks in Japan and now in Singapore. Singapore being close to other south-east Asian countries like Thailand, Cambodgia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines we can't expect a park in these countries. Dubaî and Beîjîng projects have been cancelled, and with Disney having two parks in China's other major cities i won't bet that next Universal Studios will be in China. Although we must not forget that Universal is not afraid to compete with Disney at the same location. Whether it's in California or in Florida Universal Studios are only a few miles away from Disney Parks...so we can't totally exclude that Universal might build a park in Shanghaî. But i have to admit it's hard to believe that it will happen.
If we consider that Shanghaî won't be the next location, where else in Asia could Universal build a new theme park? And why not in India! I remind you one of my previous articles revealing that Disney is looking over India for a future Magic Kingdom. Sure, it's not for now, but with a population of more than one billion it's understandable that any major company look in direction of India. And i must say that if Universal's strategy was to open their next theme park in India it could be pretty smart. Why? Because Disney is stuck in China at least for the next eight to ten years. They must fix HKDL attendance problem - which hopefully they will do thanks to the new attractions - they have this big park coming in Shanghaî, and dealing with Chinese administration is not that easy. While Disney is stuck in China they won't go in another major project, especially in India. So, it might be the right time for Universal to look over the Indian market. For sure there is a lot of poor people in India who might not afford a trip to a Universal Studios but the middle class is growing quickly and in four-five years from now India will be an even more powerful country, economically speaking.
And where would you build a theme park in India if you had the power to do so? Well, Mumbaî (Bombay) could be the right place. Why? First, Mumbai is India's largest city, is considered the financial capital of the country and serves as the economic hub of India. I don't know (unfortunately) India and i might be wrong but i have the feeling that Mumbai is, of all Indian cities, probably the closest to some occidental cities. AND, important point, Mumbai is the home of the famous Bollywood movies studios, the largest film producer in India and one of the largest in the world if not the largest. What place could be better for a theme park movie studio? Young Indians are aware of all major American blockbusters and it will be probably easier to deal with India's administration than with China's officials. They already have six amusement parks in Mumbai - including one called "Fantasy Land" ! - but nothing as sophisticated as a Universal Studios. Not to forget that Mumbai is at three hours flight from the Emirates rich customers. Frankly, if i was Universal, i will build a Universal studios in Mumbai, the perfect city to enter the Indian market while Disney can't do it. New Delhi could be another possibility but i have a better feeling with Mumbai as the right place for a theme park themed on movies.
If India was not "the" choice, where could they open a new Universal Studios? In Asia, there is only one other place and it's not even really in Asia: Australia. I could see a Universal Studios in Sydney. It's not too close to China or Japan which will help to avoid Disney competition, but the 20M Australian might not be enough, economically speaking, even if we include New Zealanders.
Talking about other countries Disneyland Paris has been incredibly lucky that Universal executives finally changed their plans and never built in the 1990's a Universal Studios in Melun, a town located at 30 miles from DLP. From what i've been told it was DLP financial difficulties which made them change their plans, but what they've never understood is that DLP Magic Kingdom has been successful from day one. It's DLP hotels which were the problem, back in the 1990's - but not anymore. Thanks to Universal misunderstanding Disneyland Paris never had a dangerous competitor a few miles away from the resort - but never say never as it's still time for Universal to change their minds once again and build a park in France if they want to do so.
Anyway, to come back to Asia, remember that all this was pure personal thoughts and as Universal have a full-time Staff, certainly not as big as Walt Disney Imagineering but with guys who knows how to build a good theme park, there is still a good chance that they will use them for the Korean Project. Time will tell if my vision was right or not, which, by the way, is not really the problem.
Artwork: copyright Universal Studios