Theme Parks

Universal Studios to open theme park in Beijing

Optimus Prime towers above the entrance to Universal Orlando Resort’s blockbuster attraction, TRANSFORMERS: The Ride – 3D.

Optimus Prime towers above the entrance to Universal Orlando Resort’s blockbuster attraction, TRANSFORMERS: The Ride – 3D.  (Universal Orlando Resort)

Spiderman looks like he'll be swinging his way to China as part of a new multi-billion dollar Universal theme park set to open in Beijing.

Aimed at capitalizing on China's rising middle class and growing demand for all things animated, Universal plans to open the $3.3 billion theme park in Beijing's eastern suburb called Tongzhou in 2019.  It will feature attractions from other Universal parks, such as movie-themed rides, a Universal CityWalk entertainment zone and a Universal-themed resort hotel, as well as rides that reflect China's cultural heritage. 

Tom Williams, chairman and chief executive of Universal Parks & Resorts, said the park will incorporate elements of Chinese cinema and culture into the attractions.

“We will work together [with funding partner, Beijing’s Shouhuan Cultural Tourism Investment Co. Ltd.] to create experiences based on China’s best-loved stories and centuries-long rich cultural heritage,” he said in a press conference. 

Williams wouldn't comment on the marquee rides, but the LA Times said rides based on the “Transformers,” “Despicable Me,” and “Harry Potter” movie franchises would be good candidates because they were popular in Chinese theaters.

This summer, "Transformers: Age of Extinction" became the highest grossing film ever in China. Williams indicated Universal Pictures is about to open a Beijing office and looks forward to more co-productions with Chinese studios in the coming years.

The 1,000-acre park—one of the largest in Universal’s theme park collection --will be the third Universal park in Asia, joining others in Singapore and Osaka, Japan, according to the LA Times.

The Beijing parks presents numerous challenges not present in its Los Angeles and Orlando locations, including snow and poor air quality due to pollution.  Williams reiterated that the city is working to improve upon its pollution problem and noted a “dramatic improvement” since his first visit to the Chinese city.

International engineering firm AECOM estimates that Chinese theme park visitors will rival U.S. numbers by 2020. The new Universal park joins a reported 59 others being built in China by 2020, including Shanghai Disney, several Six Flags locations and a DreamWorks Animation complex in Shanghai.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.