After a courtship of about 20 years, the Walt Disney Company has won approval from the central government of China to build a Disneyland-style theme park in Shanghai, Robert A. Iger, Disneyâ€™s chief executive, said Tuesday.
The agreement for a Shanghai Disneyland is a landmark deal that carries enormous cultural and financial implications. Analysts estimate the initial park â€” not including hotels and resort infrastructure â€” will cost $3.5 billion, making it one of the largest-ever foreign investments in China.
The initial resort, with a mix of shopping areas, hotels and a Magic Kingdom-style theme park, will sprawl across 1,000 acres of the cityâ€™s Pudong district â€” with the theme park occupying about 100 of those acres. It would be a little bigger than Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., and on par with the parks in Paris and Tokyo. It is expected to open in five or six years.
Disneyâ€™s plans are ambitious: If further development of the resort happens as expected over the coming decades â€” still a big if â€” it will encompass more than 1,700 acres and have a capacity rivaling Disney World in Florida, which attracts about 45 million annual visitors.
The companyâ€™s goal is to create an engine that will drive demand among Chinaâ€™s 1.3 billion residents for other Disney products, from video games to Broadway-style shows to DVDs. Disney typically relies on the creation of new Disney TV channels to pump its brand abroad, but Chinaâ€™s limits on foreign media have made that impossible. The approval, notably, did not come with concessions from China on the television front.
Mr. Iger called the approval â€œa very significant milestoneâ€ in a statement, taking care to praise China as â€œone of the most dynamic, exciting and important countries in the world.â€ A spokeswoman declined to elaborate on details. Throwing open its doors to such a uniquely American â€” and permanent â€” entertainment experience is a milestone for China, which has aggressively protected its culture from Westernization in general and Hollywood in particular. Only 20 non-Chinese films are allowed to be shown in theaters each year, for instance, and those are often edited.
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