Universal Studios Breaks Ground on Beijing Park

The Beijing area’s first major foreign theme park begins construction, with a view to a 2020 opening.

First announced in 2014 and with plans for Steven Spielberg to play a role in its design, Universal Studios broke ground Monday on its multi-billion dollar amusement park in eastern Beijing Monday, with a scheduled opening date in 2020.

The park, the first major theme park built by a foreign developer in the Beijing environs, will cover four square kilometers (about 2.5 square miles), and is situated in Tongzhou, an eastern district of Beijing municipality to which much of Beijing’s city government is in the process of moving, to alleviate traffic congestion and pollution in the city center.

Initially announced as a US$3 billion project, RMB 50 billion ($7.4 billion) in investment has now been secured, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency. The park’s opening date has also been on a sliding schedule. It was first rumored as January 2018, then set for 2019, and now 2020.

“Famous Hollywood director Stephen Spielberg [sic] will be involved in the design of the park which will include many Chinese elements,” Xinhua reported in 2015. Spielberg is a consultant for Universal’s parks, a role which he is expected to hold through 2017.

Universal Studios Beijing will “pay ‘proper homage to Chinese culture,'” said Tom Williams, chairman and CEO of Universal Parks & Resorts,” at the time of the park’s official announcement in 2014.

Universal Studios Beijing joins similar parks in Singapore and Tokyo. Both Disney and DreamWorks are building parks in Shanghai, with Disney’s park opening earlier this year.

This isn’t Universal’s first foray into Beijing. The Universal Studios Experience at Beijing’s Henderson Center in the late 1990s, was designed to bring a bit of movie magic to central Beijing, but as a multimedia experience – not with theme park rides. Unfortunately, neither Henderson’s location nor the attraction ever caught on, and as the mall died a slow and miserable death, so did the Universal Experience, its iconic Universal globe standing unlit and dusty for months before it was finally removed.