Voices of Giants: Universal Studio Beijing eyes opportunity in growing Chinese market
Updated 14:26, 30-Oct-2019
Wang Mengzhen

Ahead of the second China International Import Expo (CIIE) which will start on November 5, we take a close look at China's increasingly enhanced business cooperation with international companies. One mega-project showcasing rising China-U.S. business cooperation is the launch of Universal Studios Beijing.

Earlier this month, the joint venture announced new partnerships and much-anticipated themes including Kung Fu Panda, the Minions, and Harry Potter. Expected to open in 2021, it will be Universal's fifth and also the largest ever park in the world. 

The new Universal Beijing Resort is trying to bring millions of expected visitors an immersive experience as movie fans will meet and interact with their favorite characters in the newly-announced theme lands.

"For the first time ever, we're creating an area for transformers. Normally we just had a ride. But this time we have an entire area dedicated to transformers. For the first time ever, we have an area dedicated to Kung Fu Panda. The area will be all indoors, completely climate controlled, and it will be an unbelievable and immersive experience for visitors," Tom Mehrmann, president of Universal Beijing resort, said. Mehrmann has been a veteran in the global theme park industry for four decades.

Rendering of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. /Photo courtesy of Universal Beijing

Rendering of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. /Photo courtesy of Universal Beijing

Plus, there will be a water world for the first time and a Hollywood land to discover behind-the-scenes stories, jointly created by renowned movie directors from the U.S. and China.

"When we decided to build Universal Beijing, I just tell people I would only want to do this project with Yimou," said American movie director Steven Spielberg.

"This is a combination of Chinese and American cultures. I'm really looking forward to it," Chinese movie director Zhang Yimou echoed.

Approved by the Chinese government in 2014, the four square-kilometer project in the capital city's subcenter Tongzhou has finished half of its phase-one construction.

Rendering of Minion Land. /Photo courtesy of Universal Beijing

Rendering of Minion Land. /Photo courtesy of Universal Beijing

When asked why Universal decided to build its largest theme park here in Beijing at this particular time, Mehrmann said in fact the company has a history that stretches back almost two decades, when the first discussion was held on the building of the Universal Studios park in China.

"But the timing has worked out really well. China has continued to grow and emerge as a stronger and stronger economic power in the world. The middle class is growing, and theme parks are natural component of growing middle class. I give the Chinese government credit to have the full sight to see where things are heading. So, the relationship began in 2001 sped up in 2013 and 2014, with the agreement signing and things getting ready," added Mehrmann.

Upon completion, 14,000 employees will be hired, thus boosting the local economy. And it's also beneficial for Universal as it's expanding partnerships with Chinese business giants like Beijing Tourism Group and Alibaba.

"Our facial recognition technology will allow visitors to access the whole park with just their face as an ID. We hope our digital services can make the park run in a greener and more efficient way," said Daniel Zhang, CEO of Alibaba.

Nowadays, the booming theme park industry in China has attracted not just domestic but global leaders such as Universal, Disney and Six Flags. But Mehrmann said competition also means various opportunities, quoting the old saying: A rising tide lifts all boats.

Read more: Universal Studios Beijing unveils vision for 2021 launch