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Paramount withdraws from London theme park resort plan

June 21, 2017, 10:53 AM · A plan to build a multi-billion-pound theme park just outside London, on the banks of the Thames, is in danger following the withdrawal of the park's top IP partner.

London Paramount was to be a £3.2 billion theme park resort on a 535-acre site on Swanscombe Peninsula, in North Kent. But today, developers announced that they and Paramount Licensing have discontinued the licensing agreement that would have permitted the use of Paramount Pictures IP — including Star Trek and Mission: Impossible — in the park.

Developers said that the project will go forward without Paramount, however. What's now being called the "London Resort" also has licensing agreements with Aardman Animations and the BBC, which would give it access to franchises including Wallace & Gromit, Shaun the Sheep, Doctor Who, and Top Gear. The developer, London Resort Company Holdings Limited, has said that it will seek addition IP partners for the resort though its CEO said "we are not looking for a new studio."

The resort is due to submit a fresh round of permit documents in November. Originally announced in 2012 and slated for opening by 2019, the project's opening date had been pushed back to 2022 even before this latest setback. In addition to the theme park, the resort is planned to include more than 4,000 hotel rooms, restaurants, and theaters.

Replies (14)

June 21, 2017 at 10:57 AM · I think that we might need to remove "London Resort actually opens" from trading on Robert's big board of theme park-related futures, because the odds against it just got really long. Thoughts?
June 21, 2017 at 11:11 AM · Never going to happen.
June 21, 2017 at 11:13 AM · Genuine question.

Brexit casualty?

June 21, 2017 at 1:14 PM · I really hope it does still happen but at the moment it seems even more like a pipe dream. It will be great for the UK to get a theme park resort like this, but as disneyland paris is set to get expansions over the next few years I doubt the park will ever happen due to the better competion.
June 21, 2017 at 2:27 PM · The park and its supporters are trying to spin this as a positive, inferring that the park was limited in the IPs it could add due to Paramount's insistence on the park not employing competitive franchises. (Which is totally standard in the business, BTW.)

Given that there is zero chance that Disney was going to license this group the rights to use Star Wars as well as Star Trek in their park, this is either spin, or the park is talking about a potential conflict with Paramount's other Top 20 IP, which is Mission: Impossible.

I suppose if the park thought it had some chance at landing the rights to James Bond from Sony (which would be the big competitive franchise to MI), then it might have a case for withdrawing from this deal to pursue that one. Or if it has some miracle deal to use Middle Earth from Warner Bros. and the Tolkien estate.

But a theme park that hopes to get 40K visitors a day - as the park has promised - absolutely has to have major IP in order to approach that number. Doctor Who, Wallace & Gromit, and Top Gear are nice IPs, but they don't come close to being big enough to move the needle that much. (And, FWIW, the BBC and Aardman licenses are no longer mentioned on the London Resort's website, as of this morning, either.)

Let's remember that Shanghai Disneyland isn't doing 40K a day, and it has the biggest theme park IP in the industry, in the biggest city in the biggest country in the world. This resort just lost its brand and its biggest IP partner (no matter who sent off whom), and still lacks government approval to proceed. Yeah, I think this project is in a bit of danger right now.

Is it doomed? No! But I think that people following this project need to adjust expectations of what can be done in the marketplace without the resort bringing some major new IP aboard. And if it isn't pursuing a studio partner, from where would the IP come?

June 21, 2017 at 6:09 PM · It's dead.

And you know what? That's a good thing, because if it opened without the proper IPs, it'd flounder, be a disappointment, waste a lot of capital, and become a white elephant.

If you're going to do a theme park, you need a LOT of money and some great IPs. If you build it, they will come - if it's worth coming to. And this one looks like it is far from being worth coming to.

June 21, 2017 at 7:19 PM · A new theme park needs both strong IP and must do attractions in order to succeed.

Hard Rock Park had good stable of rides but not so strong IP

The theme parks in Dubai have a collection of good IP but still not a must do attraction there yet for theme park fans to get on the next flight there.

Now London Resorts has neither at the moment. I really don't see this getting off the ground at all currently.

June 22, 2017 at 2:33 AM · >>>Genuine question. Brexit casualty?

Whilst Brexit has certainly hurt the economy, and threatens more damage, I don't think thats what made Paramount pull out. Attendance and financial viability is the operators job, Paramount's job is to sit back and cash the licensing cheque.

June 22, 2017 at 6:07 AM · Hard Rock Park has some great IP (Led Zeppelin, Eagles, limited use of The Beatles), but in the end their goals were far too lofty to meet investor expectations, just as what appears to be occurring here. The issue with new parks is they require a HUGE amount of capital investment just to open, and then if the first season or 2 don't meet financial projections, operators are left with diving further in debt to increase attendance by adding more attractions, or trying to survive on a shoestring operational budget, potentially causing the park's quality to decline shortly after opening.

The management of Hard Rock Park set unrealistic goals in order to secure funds and the backing of the Hard Rock brand, but when investors eventually saw that those goals were nearly impossible to achieve (along with the great recession), they cut their losses by selling their stake in the park, leaving operators no choice but to look for someone to take the albatross off their neck. This park was on course to meet the same fate, and perhaps the loss of this IP will prevent investors and operators from making the same mistake.

Unless you're Disney, I think in order to get a resort-style theme park off the ground, you have to start small. Trying to build a full-day experience right off the bat is an impossible task. Groups trying to build parks should start with a single land with one or two major attractions with a handful of smaller attractions. They should then price their park accordingly (perhaps 2-3 times the cost of a regular movie ticket in the area) to build a solid base of fans. As the cash flow starts trending up, then operators can go out to seek further investment partners to expand the park one land at a time until the park achieves a full-day experience. It's really how most businesses are started, yet those looking to open theme parks get these grandiose ideas and try to bite off far more than they can chew and go hundreds of millions of dollars into debt, compounding any mistakes that are inevitable in a newly constructed park. The Middle East parks are failing because they're trying to be full-day (or even multi-day) experiences, and the money that's been invested is a weight that will hang over any future expansion plans. Theme parks should be operated like any other business, and one day, a smart investment and operational group will come together and put together a theme park resort the right way that one day will rival what Disney has taken 60+ years to perfect.

June 22, 2017 at 11:02 AM · This is Brexit. The UK just damaged itself. At least Trump will go in 4-8 years. We have messed our country up permanantly.
June 22, 2017 at 3:09 PM · This has absolutely nothing to do with Brexit. How can it? People from Europe aren't now banned from visiting the UK. Brexit makes zero difference. However, when this was first announced I could never see a theme park in England being built for £3b ever getting the attendances needed to break even, let alone give a return to the investors. This project, as most new builds of this magnitude, has been constantly deferred and I would not bet too much on it ever breaking ground as I cannot see how it is commercially viable.
June 23, 2017 at 8:02 AM · As someone who lives about 10minutes drive from the Swanscombe Peninsula, I can happily say that this project will never go ahead. The traffic in this area is the main issue. The roads can barely handle the current 9-5 working day, let alone adding a theme park.
It's also in a stupid closed off area surrounded by built up and over crowded towns.
There's more people here blocking it than supporting it. It won't go ahead. Not a chance.
Paramount backed out for a reason, most likely because they don't want to waste any more budget on a dream that will not proceed.
June 23, 2017 at 9:16 AM · I agree with prof plum, this has nothing to do with brexit and brexit has not hurt the uk economy (thus far) and brexit has nothing to do with tourism and visitors to the uk. 40k visitors a day or over 14 million per year is totally unrealistic, and I doubt the area could handle that volume of people for transport, everything is already very congested in the south east U.K. Add that fact to the uk weather and the whole project seemed unrealistic to me.
June 25, 2017 at 5:09 PM · Can't see it going ahead now as it's clear from looking at other theme park's attendances what a difference good IP makes.
To attract 14m+ visitors a year you need to be offering something phenomenal. Disneyland Paris attracted 8.4m last year. The most visited theme park in the UK was LEGOLAND with 2.2m. Alton Towers, Thorpe Park and Chessington were all below 2m.

I'd love to see them do an entirely James Bond themed park, there's plenty of material and so much inspiration you could use for rides; different transport, locations etc. I just question how much draw it would have.
I can see it now: Split the park into 6/7 locations; London, Moscow, Jamaica, Iceland(arguably from the worst Bond film but you can't argue with building a replica ice palace) etc. You've got various movie chase scenes for themed rollercoasters/simulators. A wide ranging assortment of characters roaming the park. Plenty of tat(sorry, souvenir) potential with Q's gadgets, hell with 3d printing you could allow guests to customise/design their own. However, I can't see it having mass appeal or a theme park being built around one particular film franchise.
The real issue with a UK theme park is the transport capabilities and the fact that for this location you have to go round or head towards the dreaded M25(think California freeways during rush hour, we have that pretty much around the clock. No joke, during the day you have traffic and at night you have less traffic but roadworks!). Unfortunately there is an obsession with building everything near London regardless of suitability.

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