Universal’s Marvel and Harry Potter themed amusement parks are old news, and will now have to step aside for China’s Lionsgate Entertainment World. The park opened its gates to the world for the first time on July 31.
Lionsgate is the studio behind many of our most beloved (and hated) global film series. The park features over 30 attractions of which some are based on the global film franchises and Chinese box office hits: The Hunger Games, Twilight, Divergent, Now You See Me, Gods of Egypt, and Escape Plan.
The 22,000 square meter multiple story indoor park is Lionsgate’s first ever in Asia. Located on Hengqin island, five minutes away from Macau, the park is part of a large-scale project called Novotown, an integrated tourism and entertainment development that came into existence after a proposal to develop Hengqin as a tourist spot was approved by China’s State Council.
“We are proud to bring this iconic attraction to life at Hengqin, Zhuhai. Lionsgate Entertainment World aims to become a multifaceted destination by engaging guests through story-telling and cutting-edge technology,” said Selena Magill, General Manager of Lionsgate Entertainment World, “We expect guests in China and all around the world to enjoy sensational experiences here that they won’t soon forget.”
Young Adult fiction has been rising in popularity worldwide for the past two decades and many North American novels are now staples on the Chinese Gen-Z bookshelf. The story about sparkling vampires that so many love to hate managed to dazzle their way across the pond to the Middle Kingdom, where all books in the series ranked among the “Top Ten Fiction Best Sellers”. As for the Hunger Games, the third and most popular installment of the franchise Mockingjay—Part 1 alone sold tickets worth $36.5 million.
Rides with Groundbreaking Technology
Due to its success, The Hunger Games has an entire floor devoted to it. The violent nature of the plot, featuring children taken by the government to fight to the death with swords and bows, resulted in the dark and suspenseful ride – Mockingjay Flight: Rebel Escape, which takes you on an all-terrain vehicle through 3D projections as you flee the city. Expect to be splashed with black tar and attacked by genetically modified wasps.
Dave Cobb, creative director at Los Angeles-based Thinkwell Group who helped design the project, noted that Chinese young adults, who are the target audience of the park, are very tech-savvy as they enjoy VR and technology. He explained that this is reflected in the park’s attractions.
The Twilight-Midnight Ride, for instance, is the world’s first multi-player, interactive, hyper-reality VR simulator where riders can actually sit on a motorcycle and race alongside Jacob and his wolf pack on a dirt bike adventure. What’s really unique about it is that it is not just a pre-rendered simulator film, there is complete rider freedom and you can explore the world freely as you go.
David Cobb explains that these new attractions ensure that visitors are no longer passive bystander. You are not only drawn into the story emotionally and physically, but also through interaction and the choices you make. “That kind of interactivity is what will set future attractions apart because we are dealing with an audience that has been raised on video games.” Cobb said.
To see if you are as fearless as the Divergent protagonist Tris, the DivergentDauntless attraction will put your bravery to the test through fear-inducing challenges like walking on a 100 story high virtual gangplank. Visitors can also experience what it would be like escaping from the most secure prison in the world through the multiplayer interactive escape room experience The Escape Plan – Prison Break.
For those who are more interested in roller coasters, The Gods of Egypt attraction is an indoor virtual reality coaster, which designers ingeniously managed to make twice as long by having riders go through the same track twice at different speeds, and with the added VR-experience, most people are unlikely notice this little trick. Nifty solutions like this are necessary to make do with the available space in the indoor park.
Lionsgate Entertainment World is just one fragment of the Novotown’s first phase. The entire project will consist of five phases and is expected to account for an investment of no less than $2.6 billion, according to Larry Leung, managing director of Novotown. “We look forward to bringing a more diversified entertainment experience to guests at Hengqin, and are committed to creating a boom in the entertainment and tourism industries here on this international leisure tourism island,“ he said.