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Park People

Fox’s theme park strategy Q Lines

Following the announcement in our last issue that the

upcoming 20th Century Fox World in Malaysia will be

followed by a second park in Dubai, Park World caught up at IAAPA in Orlando with

Twentieth Century Fox’s senior vice-president of global live & location based entertainment, Greg Lombardo, and Scott Ault from Rethink Leisure & Entertainment,

which is providing design and production services to the new Dubai park. In this exclusive

interview they tell us why they believe critical mass will be beneficial to the UAE theme

park industry, why the region cannot have too much IP and how Malaysia will provide Fox with a gateway to consumers in China and India

Why did you choose Malaysia and Dubai for your first ever theme parks? Greg Lombardo (GL) – These places have been chosen for their strategic location. In the case of Malaysia it’s a gateway to China and some high-spending countries like Singapore, and also India, which is a huge consumer of our films. In the case of Dubai, it provides us with an incredible opportunity to capture the European market. Europe is a really mature theme park market, so when you are in the business of trying to build branded parks, they are certain places you take off the table just from the standpoint of the amount of bandwidth it takes to get projects off the ground; it’s a similar challenge you have Stateside. Dubai gives us that gateway to Europe, it also taps into Russia, which is obviously a really important market for us, and it allows us to reach the GCC [Middle East], where many countries are big consumers of our films. The demographics we can get out of Dubai are really great for us.

Why is now the right time to enter Dubai, and why do you believe so many park will happen now when they didn’t before? GL – Dubai hasn’t been a stranger to many, many theme park announcements in the past, that’s true. There’s been a fair share of projects that looked very promising but never materialised. I think there has been some learning, and I think this time Dubai is taking a measured appraoch to development of this kind. The key indicator to us is always when you have a World Expo and the infrastructure that goes with it. You see the sea change that that created in Shanghai, the change that the Olympics created in Beijing; the way consumers viewed entertainment and what they expected from it. Dubai has the 2020 World Expo, and they are going to probably double their hotel count to accommodate what its going to be a huge surge in critical mass, but they need to sustain that demand over the long haul We were very careful about not announcing our project

until we had a high degree of confidence about its viability. We have worked on this for two years with our lead developer and design firm, Rethink. I think there is a level of expectation on this because Malaysia is being built and to

Twentieth Century Fox’s Greg Lombardo (centre) flanked by Rethink Leisure & Entertainment’s COO Michael Pharr (left) and president/CEO Scott Ault (right)

have a park already under construction elsewhere was so important to us as a new brand in this space. I think the last thing is that we have a tremendous partner in Dubai with AAHG. They have the land, it’s a great location and part of the Dubailand site. They have a passion to do it right and they are demonstrating that in the level of talent they have brought in to support the project.

There are a lot of new parks being planned for the UAE, including at least two other Hollywood- based movie parks (Motiongate and Warner Bros). Is that too many? GL – Motiongate is a great thing for the region. Then there’s Warner Bros under construction in Abu Dhabi, and also IMG Worlds of Adventure, which will have some intellectual properties. All of these show that the UAE is no longer just about announcements, this is the place where things are now happening, and all ships rise on that. Scott Ault (SA) – It’s also a guarantee of quality, because if any one of those parks or projects doesn’t deliver on quality, it’s not going to be in the market for very long.

Is there a risk of IP “clutter” in the region? GL – It’s been proven time and time again that guests really relate to proven IP, and the consumer leads the way. We are sitting right now in the absolute global capital of themed entertainment – Orlando – and how many parks are there, how much IP is in this one city? That beyond all else is proof that this is the right approach. Orlando has risen from a swamp to attract people from all over the world, and you cannot do that with just one destination.

A rendering of 20th Century Fox World Dubai


What were your criteria when selecting the IP for each park? GL –We are being very careful trying to pick the properties that work for the audience in each region. I am not just being given this list by the studio and told to go out there and exploit these things. SA – There are some IPs are not available to us, because Fox has licensing agreements with other parties. GL – Are you talking about the blue people Scott? I think it’s also the way you approach the IP. OK, we’ve got franchises


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