Universal Officially Signs the Deal with China to Build Universal Studios Beijing

September 14, 2015, 3:21 PM · Executives from Universal Studios this weekend formally signed the deal to begin construction on its largest theme park, the planned Universal Studios Beijing.

Signing ceremony

Universal and Chinese officials approved the deal last year, which would see the partnership develop the US$3.3 billion, 296-acre theme park in the Chinese capital city. In addition, the project will spend an addition US$3.5 billion developing the area around the park, including a subway expansion and other infrastructure improvements.

The park is scheduled to open in 2019. Beyond that, future development plans call for a second theme park, a water park, and five other hotels in addition to the Universal Studios hotel and CityWalk entertainment district that will open alongside Universal Studios Beijing.

Universal Studios Beijing

When officials approved the project and released its first concept art last fall, we looked through that image for clues to what visitors might find in the park when it opened. Among the attractions we found suggested in the concept art were a Wizarding World of Harry Potter, including Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, Transformers, Revenge of the Mummy, Jurassic Park, and DreamWorks Animation's Madagascar.

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Replies (35)

September 14, 2015 at 3:56 PM · Frankly, if they have to spend $3.5 billion just to develop the area around the park, then this looks like a bad investment.
September 14, 2015 at 6:40 PM · As long as they don't take investment away from their Orlando and Hollywood parks - to pay for this. Sure a part of Disney nothingness in the parks in America is down to the huge investment in Shanghai.
September 14, 2015 at 7:12 PM · Why doesn't Universal focus on its existing domestic parks?
September 14, 2015 at 7:21 PM · It is a joint venture that both Comcast Universal and the local firm will share the investment.

Universal of course wants to get into the Chinese market. There are twenty million people living in and around Beijing. Can they get 20 million new customers by investing in its US parks?

September 14, 2015 at 8:11 PM · Disneyversal - surly you jest.
September 14, 2015 at 8:47 PM · Um....I guess all that construction that Universal is doing in Orlando and Los Angeles doesn't count as focusing on their domestic parks?
September 14, 2015 at 9:51 PM · Theme Park Wars 2.0

The population of China is nearly 4x that of the USA.

Hong Kong Disneyland was just spring board for Walt Disney Company to enter China.

WDco did announce their intentions to build in Shanghai when they announced plans for Hong Kong Disneyland.

Mind you I'm not holding my breath whether or not Universal Beijing becomes reality since they had previous plans to open in Dubai, Moscow and South Korea.

It may all depends on whether or not Shanghai Disneyland sinks like Disneyland Paris or not.

It took 7years for Hong Kong Disneyland to turn an profit and 70% of theme parks in China fail so we shall see.

It's really not shocking that Comcast NBC Universal and Walt Disney Company want to be in the largest consumer market in the world like all fortune 500 Companies

September 14, 2015 at 10:02 PM · I think this will ultimately benefit the Hollywood park the most, as there will be rides built for both China and Los Angeles at the same time or to similar specifications (see also: Transformers in Singapore and Hollywood).
September 14, 2015 at 10:50 PM · I just wish they would make Hollywood bigger
September 14, 2015 at 11:55 PM · Wow, that seems like a really short time frame for construction. Have they started already? Shanghai Disney broke ground in April of 2011 and will open early 2016. Even for an end of 2019 completion that sounds a little fast.
September 15, 2015 at 2:19 AM · Um ... I guess all that construction Disney is doing in Orlando constitutes "nothingness."
September 15, 2015 at 3:45 AM · Ok! Sure! Let's build our biggest park to date in China, despite that there was just an entire article and comment thread stating why building a theme park in that country would be a horrible idea!

And you know all those loyal fans who constantly praise us for how quick we are with building new stuff? Well, let's take away their integrity by not opening this baby for another 4 years!

Ladies and gentlemen, Universal, the supposed Nirvana of theme park creativity who some claim to even be better than Disney.

September 15, 2015 at 5:19 AM · Actually the final "seal the deal" walk was yesterday (9/14) There was a massive amount of work (Cleaning/Painting/Minor Building Maintenance) done this past week, gearing up for the walk. If you'd been to the park over the past 3 days you'd notice how great the parks looked. They did a walk of IOA and USF and possibly City Walk and all that work paid off :-)
September 15, 2015 at 6:07 AM · Was it just me or did anybody else have trouble figuring out what the poster at just said?
September 15, 2015 at 6:58 AM · Actually, this overseas venture of Universal might have a better chance of becoming reality unlike their previously announced overseas ventures for the following reasons:

Beijing is hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics

Comcast, in addition to owning Universal Studios also owns NBC which in recent years has won the broadcasting rights for the Games.

Imagine if you will for a moment, that the US Olympic Gold Medalists celebrating their Olympic victories at Universal Bejing first before the usual Disneyland parade at Shanghai Disneyland in 2022.

This would be a huge marketing coup/cross promotional tie in for Comcast assuming that Disney parent of ABC does not make a bid to broadcasting the 2022 Winter Olympics if have not realized this possible PR nightmare yet.

All the more reason for Universal Beijing to open in 5-6 years time

September 15, 2015 at 7:31 AM · I currently live in Guangzhou, about 3 hours south of Beijing by air. My wife loves Beijing and wants to move back, but I fight it because of the awful air quality. Alas, if this park really does become a reality, at least I can have some fun while I shave years off of my life expectancy.

Seriously though, a big Universal Studios park would make living in Beijing more palatable, so I will be watching this very closely.

September 15, 2015 at 9:04 AM · This makes no sense. Population doesn't mean attendance and I wouldn't visit Beijinh for this. They should have kept Diagon Alley UOR exclusive
September 15, 2015 at 10:50 AM · Re: Tim Hillman

Sorry if I was a little...unclear. What I was trying to say (albeit in a very confusing manner) was that Universal made two screw-ups that Disney also made, which is ironic because so many people like to talk endlessly about how much better than Disney Universal is.

The first one is building a theme park in China. But, on this very website, there was just recently an article talking about why building a theme park in China right now wouldn't be the best idea (grant it, mostly Disney, but still).

Grant it, this next one really technically isn't a screw-up, but ironic nonetheless. What's the most common argument Universal fans make? That Universal pumps out new attractions soon after they're announced, whereas Disney takes a couple years. It's currently 2015. The park is scheduled for a 2019 opening. Again, not much of a screw-up, but ironic nonetheless.

Hope that cleared things up!

September 15, 2015 at 10:53 AM · I have a feeling this will do better than Hong Kong or Shangaghi Disneyland. Universal does a much better job than Disney about bring popular and current properties to their parks. imthink overall Disney is better, but I think this will translate to a much bigger success than Disneyland in China. Disney's parks feature an idealized version of America's past, as well characters and themes based on European stories the Chinese haven't heard of until recently. Universal will have a park based on recent franchises that are popular and well known in China. Disneyland Hong Kong is turning around, and Shanghai has fixed part of that problem Honk Kong is having to fix. But Universal will work very well in China with little adjustment, and will likely be the most successful theme park in Chian.
September 15, 2015 at 11:52 AM · Beijing is an unpleasant place to visit, but I can see why Beijing would want to be on the map as a tourist destination. I wonder if Universal can be successfully imported. It is certainly doing well in Japan, but that is no guarantee. The Chinese financial institutions and government have too much money and they need to spend it. People need jobs. Their middle class is getting bigger and they want places to spend their disposable income. I suggest they make Minions into their new park mascot. The other franchises are not so popular with the exception of Transformers. Not so sure how Harry Potter translates.
September 15, 2015 at 1:03 PM · Actually, I think both Disney and Universal are making excellent business decisions by building new parks in mainland China, because despite the volatility of the overheated Chinese stock market and economy which is due primarily to centralized government meddling, the upside of expanding to China far outweighs the downside.

Most of the financing for the new parks is going to come from Chinese sources - either private or quasi-governmental. Neither Disney nor Universal will have a big chunk of change at risk so the downside is limited while the upside is tremendous.

The size of the middle class in China is considerable, and when the economy settles down, the middle class will only get bigger and the profitability of the parks is only going to increase. Throw in the opportunity to use the parks as a vehicle to market all of their products; movies, shows, toys, etc., and the option of building a park in China becomes irresistible, and the profits will only get better as Disney and Universal learn to fine tune their marketing for the Chinese consumers.

The synergy in park development is also too tempting. Existing rides and attractions in the current parks can be re-used in the Chinese parks relatively unchanged without getting the prevalent complaints about copycat rides being used on both sides of the continent in the United States and to a lesser degree in Europe and Japan. Even better, any original rides developed in the Chinese parks with Chinese money stand a good chance of being brought back to the States for the domestic parks.

So, contrary to what one of our previous posters said, this is certainly not a screw-up on the part of Disney nor Universal to build parks in China, and as for it taking 4-5 years to build the resorts there, I'd say that's pretty ambitious. It's one thing to develop an attraction or land in an existing park in a few years, and it is a challenge of a much higher magnitude to build a resort in a foreign land from the ground up. There's no knock on Disney or Universal for taking this long or even a little longer considering the scope of the effort.

September 15, 2015 at 2:28 PM · I agree with Tim Hillman. Although China's economy is stalling currently, this will be a temporary issue. The movie market in China is growing hugely, and studios want to capitalise on this. Having on the ground investments in mainland China will aid in their studios vying for release of movies there (only a select number of foreign movies are released in China annually - and these parks won't hinder Universal or Disney's prospects). International tourism to China is expected to reach number 1 by 2020 (by the World Tourism Organisation) which also won't hurt park attendance.

As for Universal having a more successful park than Disney, I think that's entirely speculation. Shanghai has larger Tourism numbers, particularly internationally, and has a better public transport infrastructure. I would never underestimate Disney's marketing power, even in a new market. Disney also has about 3 times the land available for further expansion, and will no doubt increase its attractions to include Star Wars and Marvel attractions. Harry Potter will likely not have the same impact in China, where the movies (although previously available on black market) have only just had official release, and I also question the popularity of the Mummy in China (particularly after that 3rd movie) and potentially Madagascar. Jurassic World was a big success there, and an expanded Jurassic Park area would likely work well.

September 15, 2015 at 2:25 PM · Accidental repost
September 15, 2015 at 3:26 PM · Well, Mr. Hillman, must admit, I stand corrected.
September 15, 2015 at 5:08 PM · So many comments about the business decision to build in China. You must realize that long before a press release is issued, years of market analysis is performed that involves the local demographics, median income, discretionary spending, construction costs, local tourism, market trending and projections. There are even specialized companies like ERA and Associates that do this kind of work. Although it's nice of people to worry about Universal and Disney's bottom line, they know EXACTLY how these parks will forecast. Right now, the themed entertainment business is working at peak capacity.
September 16, 2015 at 6:59 AM · It's nice that you ( can make assertions in capital letters, but some of us on this site can count to twenty without taking our shoes off, and you might get some argument from those folks that Disney's decisions to expand to Paris and Hong Kong have not been resounding successes. Here's a link to a Time article about how the Paris park has struggled for most of its 20+ years of existence:


Now it looks like the Hong Kong Disney park is experiencing many of the same growing pains as Disneyland Paris, so I wouldn't be so confident if I were you simply because forecasting is one thing, and execution and actual results are another.

If Disney or Universal take a hit on their new Chinese parks, even though the construction and operation of the parks is largely funded with non-house money, it could possibly affect the development of the American parks simply because the loss of prestige for a foreign park to fail is not palatable to either company and they will put house money in play to make these parks work.

Expanding into mainland China appears to be a good business decision for both companies, but at best these are calculated risks and not a sure thing.

September 16, 2015 at 9:54 AM · I'm still surprised to see these companies open parks in a communist country where the government controls everything.
September 16, 2015 at 2:37 PM · The US government controls far more than China, and will invade or bomb other contries that don't do it's bidding. See: vietnam, korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iraq again etc.
September 16, 2015 at 7:56 PM · Well David, China may have an authoritarian regime in control, and life in China is highly regulated by the Communist Party, but the economic system currently in place is referred to as "State Capitalism," and even though it is dominated by state controlled industries there is a significant and growing part of the economy that is in private hands. That private sector is driving the growth of the middle class, and despite the recent failings of the state to control the economy and the stock market, there are multitudes of western corporations that are scrambling to position themselves to reap the economic benefits of a rapidly-growing and potentially massive middle class. Disney and Universal are wise to enter the market in China now.

Daniel, the Chinese expatriates living on the west coast of the United States and Canada may disagree with that statement that the US government controls far more than China. I'd also recommend that you research the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. Things have gotten better since then, but there really is no comparison between the political systems of the two countries.

As far as the broadly-painted assertion about the US invading or bombing other countries that don't do our bidding, I'm just going to suggest that you work on your history. Had you included Mexico and some of the Central American countries on your list, I might agree that your statement might have some small amount of validity, but of the list of countries that you provided, only the second invasion of Iraq can be held in question. The rest of your list is flat out wrong.

September 17, 2015 at 7:20 PM · Tim, when I say the US controls more then China I mean on a global scale, not so much within the nations borders, although the argument could probably be made.




September 18, 2015 at 6:23 AM · Daniel, when you responded to David's comment about the government controlling everything in China, did you choose to compare US control in the world to Chinese control in the world? Or Chinese control in China? Either way, it's just bad logic, and the facts don't support your conclusion whatever it is.

Because of the way human beings are, international relations are always going to be chaotic and full of strife. History has proven that fact over and over, and it is frustrating when people want to deny the reality of the situation.

Many Europeans want to belittle the United States for spending so much of our GDP on our military and for trying to be the world's policeman. That simplistic attitude is frustrating, and it's funny how they conveniently forget that the money and the military of the US has kept them safe from the Russian bear and the Warsaw block countries for decades and eventually led to the emancipation of eastern Europe from the Soviet Union. They also conveniently forget that not having to spend as much on defense has allowed them to fund their state institutions like socialized medicine.

Equally frustrating is the attitude by many Americans that the Europeans aren't contributing their fair share to their own defense and don't do enough to help keep the world safe. What those people conveniently forget are the massive wars between the nations of Europe of the last few centuries, and the last thing anybody wants to see in Europe is the rise of a powerful national military that might kick off another arms race and possibly another European war.

So, when it comes to international relations, the situation is complicated, and using blanket statements to decry any country for using a tool whether it is the military or diplomacy or money or an embargo to achieve their aims is just a willful denial of the bigger picture.

September 18, 2015 at 2:34 PM · You don't understand my point? Yet you bring up Russia, Warsaw and Europe when the conversation was about China and the US.

"international relations are always going to be chaotic and full of strife"

- Wow talk about broadly painted assertions!

All I did was link 2 websites stating a group of facts yet that was responded by a long and unclear tirade that is far from the original conversation.

My original response was about calling China a communist country that controls everything. So here is a simple question. Which is worse: a controlling communist government or a democratic government that has murdered hundreds of thousands of non combatants in the last century?

September 18, 2015 at 4:49 PM · Well Daniel, your point is still very unclear.

My point, which is probably unclear to you due to the fact that it is hard to communicate in a written forum when discussing complex issues, is that when you throw out detestable and uncalled for comments like:

"The US government controls far more than China, and will invade or bomb other contries that don't do it's bidding. See: vietnam, korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iraq again etc."

you are making a broad assertion with little reference to the context of why those events happened. Paragraphs 3 and 4 of my last response gave examples of how people take situations out of context and use them to unfairly criticize other countries.

As far as my observation that "international relations are always going to be chaotic and full of strife," that's from the Realism theory of international relations. People far smarter than me have made that determination, and I prefer to use that theory to understand how the world operates. In today's times that interpretation of events (vs. say, the Liberalism theory) seems to make the most sense to me.

Finally, your criticism of the US is unfair in the context of the big picture. We can take an empire or group or country over the last several thousand years of our history and we can cherrypick their so-called atrocities and try to condemn them, or we can accept that people in large groups are going to act in their own self-interest in a multitude of ways and the results can either be despicable or admirable depending on the viewpoint of the observer.

As far as your last question, that's a can of worms that neither one of us wants to open - especially on this site. Let's just agree to disagree and leave it at that.

September 27, 2015 at 2:37 AM · I opened the can of worms with my very first comment. But I knew you wouldn't answer the question. And that is exactly my point. Americans live in a bubble and quickly demonize foreign powers because they only know what CNN tells them, when our own has done equally and sometimes worse. We mourn 9/11 because a few thousand people died, while our indiscriminate bombing in the last 70 years has killed hundreds of thousands if not millions. The value of human life should not depend on which side of a line you live on, otherwise we are just savages, killing our neighbors cause they're in the way.
September 19, 2015 at 3:35 AM · Yes, Daniel you are totally right, and I cede the moral high ground to you.

I'm going back to talking about theme parks.

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