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An artist’s impression of the planned Bali Paramount Pictures Theme Park, which would be the biggest such attraction in Southeast Asia. Image: Paramount

Will Paramount’s Bali theme park, the biggest in Southeast Asia, ever be built? Don’t hold your breath

  • From SpongeBob to Dora the Explorer, the theme park’s backers aim to tap into Paramount’s library, and boost the economy of Bali’s little-visited west coast
  • However, Indonesia and Paramount Parks have poor track records when it comes to completing this kind of project, so if it will come to pass is anyone’s guess
Asia travel
Dave Smith

A Paramount-branded theme park and integrated resort – the largest of its kind in Southeast Asia – is planned for Bali’s little-visited west coast.

A cooperation agreement to build the park, complete with golf courses and two themed hotels, was signed in Los Angeles in late July between American film production and distribution company Paramount Pictures and Kios Ria Kreasi, an Indonesian technology, entertainment and tourism firm.

“Paramount is a global brand that captures the imagination of everyone from children to adults,” Kios managing director Ade Sulistioputra said at the signing.

“We will tap into a library of over 1,000 films and use brands and characters that will appeal to people of all ages, while other attractions may draw on Nickelodeon’s characters such as SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”

As things stand, Bali’s Jembrana Regency, where the mega park is slated for, is predominantly rural. Photo: Shutterstock
The as-yet unnamed park will be built at the halfway mark of a planned 100km (60-mile) toll road between Mengwi, in central Bali, and Gilimanuk, the terminal for ferries to Indonesia’s main island, Java.

It promises to light a rocket under the economy of a part of the island that receives less than one per cent of foreign arrivals in Bali and where gross domestic product per capita is half of what it is in the island’s south, where tourism is concentrated, according to the Balinese statistics agency.

Bali’s southern coast is where much of the island’s tourism happens, with numerous beachside resorts. Finns Club in Canggu (pictured) attracted 750,000 visitors in 2019. Photo: Facebook

“A park like this can have a significant, long-term impact on tourism, including domestic and international visitors,” Ty Granaroli, executive vice-president of themed entertainment at Paramount said at the signing.

“It will also improve Bali’s economy, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic,” said the speaker of Indonesia’s parliament, Bambang Soesatyo, one of many high-ranking officials who witnessed the signing virtually.

So is a Paramount-branded theme park in Bali a sure thing? Not exactly.

The Indonesia beyond Bali is brimming with vibrant communities and customs

Indonesia has a poor track record of seeing megaprojects through to the end. Take the North Bali Airport project.

Announced in 2015 as a means to distribute tourism from the overdeveloped south to the whisper-quiet north, the long-delayed megaproject was recently removed from Indonesia’s National Strategic Project list, along with Tiro Dam in Aceh and the Tanjung Api-Api Economic Centre in South Sumatra, because of a lack of progress.

And what about Bali’s six-star Trump Residence and golf course? Announced with great fanfare in 2017 by The Trump Organization and Indonesian billionaire Hary Tanoesoedibjo, it promised a “new level” of luxury on the island. The only thing that has been erected on the site thus far is a billboard.
A mock-up of Bali’s six-star Trump Residence and golf course. Photo:
Then there was “ Baliwood”, a proposal to build the first movie-grade film studios on the island. The project was announced at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival by Creative Artists Agency, one of the largest and most influential talent agencies in the world, in conjunction with United Media Asia, an Indonesian production firm.

Like Paramount’s highly ambitious proposal, Baliwood received gushing support from high-ranking Indonesian officials. “I am very excited to see United Media Asia’s effort to build and cultivate Bali as a world-class hub for international content,” said Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy Sandiaga Uno.

However, numerous inquiries sent to United Media Asia asking about the progress of the venture this year have gone unanswered.

Rides at Paramount Canada’s Wonderland. It is the first major theme park in Canada and remains the country’s largest. Photo: Shutterstock

Paramount is, of course, a different story. It has owned, operated or licensed busy theme parks in the United States since 1993. However, except for Paramount Canada’s Wonderland, every proposal for an overseas theme park the company has put its name to has run into lengthy delays or been nixed.

A deal to build a Paramount theme park with Mohegan Gaming, one of the world’s largest casino operators, has been in the works on South Korea’s Incheon Island since the 2000s.

Billed as Korea’s Las Vegas, it was supposed to feature 40 themed rides and attractions based on storylines from Paramount’s Mission Impossible and Star Trek film franchises, plus a K-pop zone.

Construction of three hotel towers has finally begun but a question mark hangs over Paramount’s involvement in the project. “Currently there is no definitive schedule for construction and completion of the theme park,” Inside Asian Gaming magazine reported Mohegan’s international president, Bobby Soper, as saying. “[We are] adjusting development plans.”

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In 2011, it was reported Paramount would develop a theme park in Murcia, Spain, with 30 attractions and an adjacent shopping centre, hotels and casino. Work on the US$1.5 billion project was set to start in 2012. But ground was never broken and today the site is a farm.

In 2012, Paramount announced a transatlantic partnership to build Britain’s answer to Disneyland in north Kent, with more than 50 rides and attractions, cinemas, live-music venues and 5,000 hotel rooms.

The so-called “London Resort” was supposed to open in 2018. But after five years of inaction, Paramount and the builder, London Resort Company Holdings, parted ways.

Paramount is the operator of Kings Dominion theme park in the US state of Virginia. Photo: Wikipedia

In 2019, the partnership was rekindled under a new deal in which Paramount would license rights to use content from The Godfather, The Italian Job and other films for rides and attractions. But once again, nothing happened and, in March, London Resort Company withdrew its development application.

Neither Paramount nor Kios has said when the theme park in Bali will open. Parliamentary speaker Bambang said in a recent statement the target date for the soft launch was 2025 and claimed the park would attract five million tourists annually.

That’s a big call – even if tourism numbers return to or surpass 2019 levels, when six million foreigners and 10 million Indonesians visited Bali. The island’s most popular venue, Finns Beach Club, logged 750,000 visitors in that year – and it is in Canggu, the epicentre of tourism in Bali.
Traditional Balinese Hindu temple Taman Ayun, in Mengwi, southern Bali. The island has a deep-rooted local culture. This, along with economic, political and logistical matters, will have to be considered during the construction of the Paramount mega theme park.

Moreover, there are interweaving and competing cultural, religious, economic, political, logistical and security concerns that will need to align before ground can be broken. And that’s not even taking into consideration the planned toll road. Construction was supposed to begin in June; now the authorities are saying September.

Seen in this historical context, the probability of a Paramount-branded theme park opening in Bali is low.

I Nengah Tamba, regent of Jembrana, the government area slated to host the park, said as much after virtually witnessing the signing in Los Angeles.

“We welcome this project because it will bring extraordinary change to the income, progress, and performance of the Regency of Jembrana,” he said, adding: “God willing, we continue to pray.”