Thursday, 28 Aug, 2014

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Universal linked to casino deal

As Japan moves closer to signing new legislation that permits the development of casino resorts in the country, Universal Studios Japan (USJ) is seeking partnerships with foreign casino operators.

The operator of Osaka's 13-year-old Universal Studios Japan is understood to be talks with MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment Corporation and Genting for a possible partnership to run a casino resort in what remains one of the world's largest untapped gaming markets.

"We have operational capacity, experience know-how, and I don't think we would be stretched to participate in more than one [casino]," chief executive officer Glenn Gumpel said.

Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party is seeking to pass a law to legalise casinos during the Diet session starting this autumn, as part of plans to boost tourism ahead of the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

Universal's intentions mark an interesting division between the group and rival operator, The Walt Disney Company.

In December 2013, Disney, the world's largest media enterprise, announced it was bringing an end to licensing deals in the slot machines, online gaming and lottery tickets sectors.

The group said it would phase out its Star Wars and Marvel slot machines in the US, in line with its family-friendly policies.

Discovery Centre planned for Osaka

Merlin Entertainments and the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan have unveiled plans to open a Legoland Discovery Centre (LDC) in Tempozan Market Place Mall in Osaka, Japan.

Legoland Discovery Centre Osaka will be Merlin's third attraction to open in Japan, and reflects the success of the company's existing LDC attraction in Tokyo, where Merlin also has a Madame Tussauds global celebrity wax attraction.

Merlin previously announced plans to build a major Legoland theme park resort in Nagoya, scheduled to open in 2017.

Commenting on the new development, Glenn Earlam, managing director of Merlin's Midway Attractions operating group, said: "The Legoland Discovery Centre concept has been a huge success across the globe - particularly as part of a family day out which may also include shopping and eating out together.

"Given the popularity of the LDC in Tokyo, which opened last year, we are confident people will also love the attraction in Osaka."

Zamperla hosts training course

Italian rides manufacturer Zamperla will hold its second maintenance, education and training course in Vicenze, near the company's European factory, on October 13-18.

"Without doubt, maintenance is an unavoidable cost but it is a very necessary one if your plant or machinery is to perform safely and efficiently," said marketing manager, Marco Mazzucchi.

"There are, however, ways of turning maintenance costs into an investment while at the same time bringing clear economical advantages to owners."

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Surf's up in Queensland

A new A$90m ($84m) waterpark with surf facilities is being developed on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia.

The as-yet-unnamed waterpark will include a wave pool, waterslides, canoeing experience, 120-room hotel and restaurants.
Specialist consultancy Waterplay - which has previously worked on projects including Sunway Lagoon in Malaysia and Wadi Adventure Park in the UAE - has applied for planning permission on the 59-acre site, close to popular attractions including Australia Zoo.

The proposed development will be built over two construction periods, with a water and surf pool being built first.

The waterpark is set to open in 2016.

New waterpark for Queensland

A planning application has been lodged on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia, for a $83.4m waterpark, to include a wave pool, waterslides, canoeing experience, 120-room hotel, restaurants and a holiday village.

Specialist consultancy Waterplay is understood to have applied for planning permission on the 59-acre site, close to popular attractions including Australia Zoo.

'Hunger Games' theme park planned

Lions Gate Entertainment, the Canadian-American media group, is planning to open a theme park dedicated to The Hunger Games, its blockbuster film franchise.

Group CEO Jon Feltheimer confirmed the studio's decision to bring Suzanne Collins' novel-turned-film franchise to life last week.

"We're deep in conversations with prospective partners on four continents to explore theme park attractions and other location-based entertainment opportunities," Feltheimer told analysts.

The news of the Hunger Games theme park follows Universal Studios' successful foray into branded entertainment in the form of Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando.

Last week it was announced that Disney was considering taking similar action through the development of a Star Wars-branded attraction.

S&S inks China park deals

S&S Worldwide has signed two new contracts with the Wanda Group to design and build tower rides for the corporation's new theme parks at Wanda Harbin Tourism City and Wanda Hefei Cultural Tourist City in China.

The rides are planned to open in 2015 and 2016.

The Wanda Group is one of China's largest cultural enterprises, with operations in commercial property, department stores, luxury hotels and tourism, including cinemas, film and television production and theme parks.

"I'm sure that the Space Shot rides from S&S will bring more attraction and screams to our theme parks in the future," said Yong Mei, vice president of Wanda. "To bring the guests unique, stimulating, and unforgettable experiences is our main purpose of building the Wanda theme parks."

Based in Utah, US, S&S has benefited from its sales and marketing efforts in China, where the consumer demand for entertainment facilities is still increasing.

Tim Timco, vice president of sales and marketing for the group, said: "S&S has been able to provide exciting rides with thematic elements that blend nicely with China's rich historical culture.

"We greatly value our business relationships with our Chinese customers and are pleased with these latest opportunities to work with the Wanda Group. A leader in the amusement ride industry, S&S has installed over 450 rides and roller coasters in 33 countries."

WhiteWater makes new appointments

WhiteWater has announced two significant senior leadership positions, in a move that will increase the Canadian waterpark supplier's dedication to its clients around the world.

Andrew Mowatt will take on a newly formed position of executive vice president of corporate accounts.

In this role, Mowatt will focus his energy on ensuring our partnerships and clients are receiving the attention and customer service they deserve.

Additionally, Franceen Gonzales will become the company's new strategic leader for the overall business development team throughout the Americas.

"These two individuals have been instrumental in shaping the industry into what it is today," read a company statement.

"With their remarkable contributions to WhiteWater and passion for outstanding customer service, we're proud to see Andrew and Franceen take these next steps as WhiteWater continues to grow."

Universal planning China development

Universal Studios has reportedly signed a deal with the Zhuhai government in south-eastern China to invest $2.43bn in a new theme park.

According to Chinese property website, the park will cover and would be the company's fourth in Asia, following the well-established sites in Japan and Singapore and the forthcoming Universal Studios park in South Korea.

Disney embraces Star Wars franchise

With numerous Star Wars films lined up for the foreseeable future, The Walt Disney Company has underlined the growing importance of the science fiction franchise in its theme parks.

In a recent interview with Variety, the US entertainment trade magazine, Disney chairman and chief executive officer Bob Iger said the company would have a "far greater Star Wars presence" at its theme parks in the future.

It is thought this will include branded Star Wars rides and attractions at the company's parks in the US, Europe and Asia.

Iger's additional comment that some of Disney's new ventures would be comparable to Universal's highly successful Harry Potter model have led to suggestions that the group is planning to develop a Star Wars branded theme park.

Disney purchased Lucasfilm, the production company that held the rights to Star Wars, for just over $4bn in 2012. It will release the next film in the ongoing franchise, Star Wars: Episode VII, in December 2015.