US film company Universal Studios Inc. has teamed up with state-owned Chinese partner Shouhuan Cultural Tourism Investment Company to build a $3.3 billion theme park in Beijing. The park—which will be owned by the partners and a consortium of state-owned enterprises—is expected to open in 2019, reports the Financial Times.

The deal creates two new joint ventures: one for park construction, in which Shouhuan will own 70 percent and Universal 30 percent; and another for park management, in which Universal will own 70 percent and Shouhuan 30 percent.

After nearly 14 years of negotiations, the project’s approval was announced by China’s State Council on October 13, according to the Wall Street Journal. Tom Williams, chairman and chief executive of Universal Parks & Resorts, called the length of negotiations “typical” for China.

The 300-acre park—expected to be one of Universal’s largest—will feature dining, entertainment, retail shopping, and a resort hotel. Williams told the Journal that the park’s indoor and outdoor attractions will be uniquely designed for China. He said that Beijing’s 200 million annual tourists were a major reason for selecting Beijing as the home for the project.

Universal’s project will face fierce competition in China’s growing theme park market. Walt Disney plans to launch a $5.5 billion park and resort in Shanghai’s Pudong district in 2015, while DreamWorks plans to open a Shanghai-based entertainment complex in 2016. Six Flags plans to build multiple parks throughout China over the next decade. Chinese entertainment companies are contributing to the crowded market as well: Dalian Wang Group—which owns AMC cinemas—will open a theme park, a film studio, and several museums in Qingdao in 2016.

Aecom, a US professional technical services group, has estimated that a total of 59 parks are currently under development in China, reports the Financial Times. Investment in theme parks in China has increased significantly over the last five years to meet the demand of China’s growing middle class and its budding consumer economy, according to market research group IbisWorld. The company predicts domestic industry revenues of $2.9 billion this year—an increase of 9.6 percent from 2013.

(Photo by Prayitno via Flickr)

Posted by Ellen Huber