A new Hollywood film-themed amusement park on Hengqin Island next door to Macau is scheduled to open by the end of 2018, the promoter announced in a statement.
Several investment analysts covering the gaming sector view the park as a positive for Macau’s casino industry.
The new park – called “Novotown” – “is set to open its doors to the public by the end of 2018,” promoter Lai Sun Group announced in a press release issued last week. The company expects the project to attract more than 5 million visitors in the first year of operation.
The business interests of Hong Kong-based conglomerate Lai Sun Group include: property development, real estate investment, hotel, telecom, mass media and entertainment.
The park – located five minutes by road from the border between Macau and mainland China’s Hengqin – is being developed by Zhuhai Hengqin Laisun Creative Culture City Co Ltd. Lai Fung Holdings Ltd owns 80 percent of the firm, while eSun Holdings Ltd controls the remaining 20 percent. Both firms are members of the Lai Sun Group.
Hong Kong-listed eSun Holdings once had an interest in Macau’s Studio City casino project, via an entity called East Asia Satellite Television Ltd. In June 2011, Melco Crown paid US$360 million to take over leadership of the Studio City casino resort scheme. The project had lain with its foundations part built since 2007 after the original set of investors could not all agree on the funding.
Last week, Zhuhai Hengqin Laisun Creative Culture City announced a partnership with Village Roadshow Theme Parks “to operate Lionsgate [full name Location Based Entertainment Inc]’s first themed immersive experience centre at Novotown”. Zhuhai Hengqin Laisun Creative Culture City and Village Roadshow signed (pictured) a consulting services and management agreement regarding the project.
Lionsgate is a major Hollywood film and entertainment company that owns a number of film franchises including “The Hunger Games”, “The Divergent” and “Now You See Me”. The second instalment of the “Now You See Me” series – released earlier this year – was partially shot in Macau.
“Spread across 22,000 square metres [236,806 sq feet] of premium indoor space, the immersive experience centre will feature attractions, retail and dining experiences themed around some of Lionsgate’s most captivating global film franchises,” Lai Sun Group stated in the release.
Village Roadshow Theme Parks – a subsidiary of Village Roadshow Ltd – operates themed attractions in Australia and North America. It is also involved in the development of China’s first Wet ‘n’ Wild Water Park, under construction in Haikou, on Hainan Island.
Lai Sun Group had previously announced a “Family Edutainment Center” also for Novotown, with content licensed by the National Geographic Society.
The mainland Chinese authorities have transformed Hengqin – previously a rural and sparsely populated island – as part of the special economic zone of Zhuhai. In just a few years Hengqin has developed commercial, educational and tourist facilities designed to integrate the economies of Macau and Zhuhai. Hengqin is linked by bridge to Cotai, a strip of multibillion U.S. dollar gaming resorts that is Macau’s answer to the Las Vegas Strip.
Macau officials – and some senior executives in the Macau casino industry – have indicated that the development of non-gaming facilities on Hengqin could be beneficial for Macau’s tourism industry.
In February 2015, Macau casino operator Sands China Ltd announced a partnership with Hengqin’s existing theme park – Hengqin Chimelong International Ocean Resort – for two-centre holiday packages. Chimelong opened in March 2014.
Macau casino operators, including MGM China Holdings Ltd and Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd, have shown interest in investing in Hengqin. MGM China said in 2014 Chinese authorities were considering whether to give permission for the firm to invest in a non-gaming project in Hengqin.
Galaxy Entertainment has already signed a framework agreement for a RMB10-billion (US$1.50-billion) non-gaming project on a 2.7-square-kilometres (1.0 sq miles) parcel of land on Hengqin. The firm has plans to build a low rise, low density resort there, according to filings to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
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Vitaly Umansky, Eunice Lee and Kelsey Zhu
Sanford Bernstein analysts