Fox fights back in the battle over canceled theme park plans

January 24, 2019, 1:04 PM · Thinking about a career in the theme park business? Maybe you have thought about studying theatrical design, architecture, cinematic arts, or even industrial engineering. All those fields offer well-traveled paths to success in themed entertainment. But if you really want the big bucks and job security in this business, maybe you should become a lawyer.

They're getting a lot of work recently, as Fox just dropped a countersuit against its former theme park partner. Yes, it's the Fox World mess again.

If you missed it, or just to recap, Fox canceled its license for the almost-completed Fox World theme park at the Resorts World Genting complex in Malaysia late last year, prompting developer Genting to sue Fox and new owner Disney in a California court. Now Fox has counter-sued, claiming that it's all Genting's fault that the park did not open on time.

In its suit, Fox is seeking "an amount to be proven at trial, including, but not limited to, the $9,000,000 in Annual License Fees, as well as $37,216,667 in Guarantee Amounts/Royalties, and $196,156 in travel reimbursements that Fox is entitled to under the terms of the [memorandum of agreement], plus interest, as well as consequential damages," in addition to legal fees.

(FWIW, the Deadline story I linked above claimed that Fox is seeking $196.2 million in travel reimbursements, missing the decimal point by three places. I know that the themed entertainment designers I follow on social media post almost as much from airports as they do from theme parks, but no creative team travels that much.)

Genting sought more than $1 billion in its suit, saying that it has spent more than $750 million developing the park, which was to include attractions themed to Fox franchises including Independence Day, Night at the Museum, Rio, Ice Age, Alien, and Sons of Anarchy. Genting has said that it will proceed with opening the park, even without the Fox theming and branding.

The countersuit allows Fox to take the initiative in demanding information from Genting, rather than simply defending itself. It also gives Fox some extra leverage in forcing a settlement more to its liking. Countersuits are a common strategy in corporate disputes that can help drag out cases for years... and many, many billable hours.

So what's the TL;DR here? I think that South Park nailed this, many years ago.

Replies (2)

January 25, 2019 at 7:10 PM

The details in Fox's countersuit alledge Genting Group cut corners and failed to meet their standards and as much as their soon to be bosses from Disney are likely to balk at ending up with a property at an integrated resort anchored by a casino, the points Fox are claiming ring true to any of us who have worked on projects of this scope in an emerging market. Guess the only way Genting could have hoped to have 20th Century Fox World as planned would have been to have had the theme park open before the takeover of 20th Century Fox- and that ship already sailed. Somce the completed theme park is so specifically wed to these Fox intellectual properties this may well remain held up in litigation a while.

January 29, 2019 at 9:47 PM

A Malaysian newspaper made the dubious conclusion that since Fox's countersuit doesn't include an injunction precluding Genting Group from opening 20th Century Fox World the theme park might open soon. Apparently they didn't consider that Genting's lawsuit against Fox and Disney revolves around them not being able to open the new theme park in the first place....

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