Paramount partners Mohegan Gaming on Korean theme park

December 7, 2018, 12:49 PM · As Fox appears to be exiting the theme park licensing business, rival studio Paramount has announced that it is stepping back in.

Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment — yes, the same group behind Connecticut's Mohegan Sun casino — announced today that it has partnered with Paramount Pictures Corporation on a theme park for its Inspire Integrated Entertainment Resort development in South Korea. The Paramount-branded theme park will open as part of the second phase of the planned US$5 billion resort at Incheon International Airport.

The resort has scheduled the ground-breaking for its first phase in May, with completion expected in 2022. The second phase, including the theme park and a retail village, is scheduled to open in 2025.

The project site is 1,079 acres, with Mohegan developing 420 acres in the first phase. That phase will include a luxury resort hotel with more than 1,250 rooms, suites, and villas; a 15,000-seat arena; a 204,000-square-foot convention facility; a 48,000-square-foot dome with an indoor pool, water rides, dining and retail; and, as one might expect, a casino.

Inspire resort
Concept art courtesy Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment

"We are pleased to have the major global force in entertainment, Paramount, on our impressive and growing list of strategic partners for Project Inspire," Mario Kontomerkos, Chief Executive Officer for Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment, said in a press release. "Aligning with highly sought after and recognized brands with mutual goals is a key component to the creation of the world's first true integrated entertainment resort."

Paramount might be a recognized global brand, but the brand hasn't seemed to have recognized much use for theme park fans in recent years. Paramount's owner sold its chain of Paramount-branded theme parks to Cedar Fair in in 2006, stripping those parks of all Paramount franchise branding. Just last year, Paramount backed out of a proposed theme park development near London, after multiple delays with that project.

Paramount's top franchises today are Star Trek, Mission: Impossible, and Nickelodeon. Its Transformers franchise is licensed to Universal's theme parks, and although the studio was the distributor for the Indiana Jones and several Marvel films, those franchises' future are now under control of Disney. But Star Trek, Mission: Impossible, and Nickelodeon provide plenty of IP to stack a world-class theme park... under the proper creative direction, supported by an adequate budget.

In hindsight, Paramount might have left money on the table by getting out of theme parks just a few years before Universal and Warner Bros. reenergized the business for studios with The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. That project raised the standard for IP-driven attractions, drawing Disney into a development war that has left behind non-studio chains, such as SeaWorld, that can't leverage a critical mass of world-class IP.

As a licensor instead of park owner, Paramount doesn't have the pay the bills to develop the world-class attractions that can compete with Universal and Disney's new lands. That's up to development partners such as Mohegan. But that leaves Paramount dependent upon its development partners to spend that money and hit their deadlines.

That didn't happen in London. Mohegan brings a lot more cash and experience to the table for this project, however. Yet Genting brought a lot of money and experience in developing a studio-branded theme park to the table in Malaysia, and now its Fox World project is stuck in legal limbo. So history elsewhere might not tell us anything about how this project will develop in South Korea.

As far as fans are concerned these days, no new theme park proposal is certain until its gates open to the public, it seems.

Replies (2)

December 7, 2018 at 1:03 PM

A Twitter follower reminded me about this failed Paramount-themed park development in Spain that I'd forgotten, too.

December 7, 2018 at 1:53 PM

This deal with Mohegan Sun is the latest in several attempts to get a Paramount branded theme park for South Korea. Technically, Nickelodeon is a separate entity within parent company Viacom and the Star Trek IP is in the hands of former Viacom stablemate CBS, Inc.- which may once again become part of Viacom. Considering how things turned out for Paramount's licensees in Kent and Murcia, remains to be seen whether there's really going to ever be another Paramount theme park anywhere...their brand has seen better days;)

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