Wanda’s flagship Wuhan movie park closed for renovation, after just 18 months

Gates shut over the weekend at 3.8 billion yuan site

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 August, 2016, 6:40pm
UPDATED : Monday, 01 August, 2016, 10:56pm

Wanda Group, the Chinese conglomerate controlled by the country’s richest man Wang Jianlin, is to renovate its 3.8 billion yuan flagship movie theme park in Wuhan, just 19 months after it opened.

In what appears to be a major setback to Wang’s ambitions to challenge Disney as the world’s premier entertainment park operator, the company said in a statement on Monday the site was being closed on July 31 for “renovation and upgrade works to better serve our guests with better quality content, as well as with a brand new experience”. No timescale was offered.

Wang has launched a slew of amusement parks across China over the last two years, but the park is considered a core part of his ambitions in the sector.

The property tycoon declared war on the new Shanghai Disneyland, just weeks ahead of its high-profile launch, in May.

“We want to ensure Disney will not be able to turn a profit in this (theme park) sector in China for between 10 and 20 years,” he said then, in an interview with China’s state broadcaster CCTV.

They need to prove they are able to excel in this market, faced with the not-too-satisfying outcome from this development
Zhao Huanyan, chief knowledge officer at hospitality and leisure consultancy Hotelsolutions Consulting

He said Disney “should not have come to China”, adding that Wanda was looking to take over from the global entertainment giant as the world’s largest tourism company by 2020.

But industry insiders suggest dismal visitor numbers have now led to a complete rethink at the site, and of the company’s overall culture and entertainments agenda.

“It takes a long time for a project of this sort to bear fruit, and definitely some improvements are needed to lift tourist numbers,” said Zhao Huanyan, chief knowledge officer with hospitality and leisure consultancy Hotelsolutions Consulting.

Zhao added that as Wanda devotes more resources to its culture and entertainment vehicles — which now account for nearly a quarter of the business empire’s total revenue — new strategies must be put in place.

“It makes sense to make such a move right now ...they need to prove they are able to excel in this market, faced with the not-too-satisfying outcome from this development,” Zhao said of the closure.

Launched in December 2014, the Wuhan movie park development is home to a number of what are described as “world-class” film-watching facilities, including what is claimed to be the world’s largest three-dimensional column soft screen, and covers an area of 100,000 square feet.

When it opened, Wang said: “We’d like to make our projects into a new symbol of Chinese culture and even a new global entertainment brand.”

The property behemoth poured 7 billion yuan into the movie park, along with another project called The Han Show, both located in the downtown area of the Hubei provincial capital, and had expected them to yield a combined 1.5 to 2 billion yuan in annual revenue.