The eagerly-awaited Lionsgate Entertainment World is set to open this summer at Novotown Hengqin. Asia’s first movie-themed vertical indoor experience centre will feature some of the world’s most popular film franchises. These include The Hunger Games, The Twilight Saga, The Divergent Series, and Now You See Me.
More information about the park was released at IAAPA Asia Expo 2019. Attendees at the event in Shanghai enjoyed an introductory video. It featured several new ride concepts and never-seen-before insights into the new park. Blooloop caught up with Selena Magill, General Manager at Lionsgate Entertainment World and Kelly Ryner, President of Thinkwell, Asia to find out more about the park’s development.
Lionsgate has offered six of its most successful global film franchises as the story backgrounds for the park’s attractions. These are fan favourites The Hunger Games, The Twilight Saga, The Divergent Series, Now You See Me, Gods of Egypt, and Escape Plan.
Lionsgate Entertainment World – coming soon!
The project has been in construction for almost three years. Now, many of the closely-guarded secrets around the park are being released. The park will be opening to the public shortly, as Magill explains, “Opening is going to be sometime this summer, we are really really close. It’s such an immersive and integrated facility we need to get it just right. We need to put the final touches through all that planning and we can’t wait to shout it from the rooftops.”
Lionsgate Entertainment World is in the Novotown precinct. The location is home to a mix of cultural, entertainment and retail offerings. Magill adds that there is a lot of other construction taking place in the area. “A Hyatt Regency hotel will also open later this year and a National Geographic Experience. This is another great family entertainment centre, so once we are all open together, we will all compliment each other. The other facilities will open later September/October time but we will be the first to open.” Phase II of the project will include Real Madrid World, a Ducati themed motorcycle experience centre and Harrow International China.
Several partners are working together to bring Lionsgate Entertainment World to Life. These include key partner Thinkwell Group and operators Village Roadshow Theme Parks. Other notable companies from around the globe are the Australian construction services company Cockram, international show contractor Scenario, world-famous ride and attraction manufacturer CAVU and Oscar-winning visual media producer Framestore. There are many other names involved in the project too, including Mack, ETF Rides, DreamCraft Attractions and Walltopia.
28 years in the business
Magill recently celebrated her 28th year in the business. She began working for Village Roadshow Theme Parks in 1990, at Wet’n’Wild Gold Coast. “Warner Bros Movie World was being built next door,” says Magill. “I was finishing school and thought ‘that looks really cool’ and didn’t know that much about theme parks. I was there for the opening of that park at the age of 17, in 1991.”
“Across that time I’ve opened many different theme parks. This is my 10th, which is amazing and the first for me in China, but I’ve worked across all our brands in Australia.” Magill says, “We had Warner Bros Movie World, Sea World, Wet’n’Wild – one in Vegas, one in China, we opened both of them last year. We have Movie World in Germany, both parks in Las Vegas. Then our waterparks and a number of smaller attractions as well as our resorts.”
“I’ve worked across pretty much every department including show and entertainment, operations, food and beverage and marketing, before returning to a more operational role. Part of every role I’ve done previously has given me a very deep understanding of the theme park industry. Now I’m able to apply this in China. This role is a great way to bring that theme park knowledge to this huge emerging market.”
Lionsgate Entertainment World and Thinkwell
The attractions industry is booming in China. To stand out from the crowd, the park chose Thinkwell Group to ensure a well-rounded, showstopping project. Thinkwell also worked on Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi. This means that the company has a strong movie-based theme park background.
The park includes theming and rides based around six of the most popular films in China. Magill says these titles continue to be popular and to resonate with audiences in China. “With Thinkwell, they can create these worlds and the level of immersive-ness in this park. Bringing the Hunger Games, the Twilight Saga, Divergent, Now You See Me, all these films across different levels to life.”
Bringing the IP to life
Because the new park is indoors, the environment is easy to control. “In the Hunger Games, for example, you walk into the Capitol,” continues Magill. “If you’ve seen the films, the Capitol is so opulent and elegant and so over the top. So too is our whole floor dedicated to that IP. In there we have the Capitol Club restaurant, which for a theme park you’ve never seen anything like it! It’s opulent, its marble, it’s gold, it’s rich. It’s not your normal theme park. We want people to live in that world.”
“In Now You See Me, we literally recreated streetscapes from the film. These are the streets of Macau, bringing pieces of that to life. There will be magicians. Portuguese tarts and food offerings are integrated into that world too.”
An immersive experience
Lionsgate Entertainment World will feature actors who interact with guests, for an immersive experience. It will also include live shows and walking entertainments.
“One of the things that makes us different, is that rather than having set show times, we are doing it in a way that is more pop-up style. You walk down, there is a magician and you turn around and there is somebody entertaining. There will absolutely be live shows in the atrium. In our live show space, we can set shows up very quickly. You can see it standing down on the first level but also looking down from upper levels. It’s a very unique show space that will be very different,” says Magill.
Lionsgate Entertainment World worked with CAVU Designwerks, Dreamcraft Attractions, Framestore and ETF on the technology behind the new rides.
EFT Rides created The Twilight Saga – Bella’s Journey. This articulated vehicle ride is based on the much-loved Twilight franchise. “You get to see Bella and Edward kiss in the forest, and there is a lot of environmental effects, says Magill. “You are in the snow you feel cold, there is wind, you can smell the pine needles”.
CAVU, Dreamcraft Attractions and Framestore worked with the park to create The Twilight Saga: Midnight Ride. This is a simulated motorbike ride. “We have taken that simulator technology which most people are used to seeing in a group vehicle. Now it is just you on a motorbike. You can grab the throttle and make it go. You literally sit on the bike, put a seatbelt on and the VR goggles come down, and from that moment it’s unbelievable.”
A VR motorbike adventure
The ride features a pre-show with the character of Jacob, in his garage. Once guests put on the goggles, they are transported to this workshop. Amongst the sounds of the forest, Jacob explains he needs help to defeat the Volturi. Then, the bike takes off.
“It has that technology where you can see your own hands, you can see the person next to you in the VR world. The first time I rode it, I absolutely loved it! I screamed like a girl. There are parts when it is very interactive. You can actually personalise your experience, by pushing your bike to go down a certain route or path. You can have a different experience to the person next to you who has gone a different route. It is incredible technology. The realness of it, even though it is VR technology is amazing.”
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Flight – Rebel Escape
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Flight – Rebel Escape is the first enclosed motion simulator in mainland China. The story focuses on the character of Katniss and her need to escape from the Capitol. The state of the art simulator features a 6DOF (degrees of freedom) motion base. This supports a 30-person cabin.
From quick eats to fine dining
The park is home to the Lionsgate Cafe. This is an all-day dining, sit down option. It includes many different Chinese and western options, suitable for quick dining.
For fine dining, guests can experience the Capitol Club. “The food there is amazing,” says Magill. We have tried really hard to make sure our food offering is to a much higher standard. The way it is plated, some of the food is themed, based on the IPs and so on.”
Lionsgate Entertainment World also features the Oculus Lounge. The octagon-shaped bar includes several interactive tables. Guests can unlock a secret menu while they are drinking by interacting with the table. The atmospheric bar adds a different, quirky touch to the IP. “When you come in, it’s quite dark, it’s quite moody,” says Magill. “We do molecular cocktails, mixologists – it’s going to be my favourite part of the park!”
The park also has food carts, like most theme parks tend to do. However, they are all themed to be in keeping with the IP. For example, the one in the Macau themed area will sell Portuguese tarts.
An indoor adventure
The project required retrofitting. This added some extra challenges to the design and construction process. Magill explains, “We had to do a lot of work re-enforcing the floors, making sure the walls were strong enough – we have a two story roller coaster in there! It was incredible how we could fit it all in. When I stand up on the Twilight Floor in the forest and look down – it’s quite epic.”
The park features a huge central chandelier that is four storeys high. It is made of screens, so the images are constantly changing. “In a lot of theme parks, they use screens for content or to upsell products buy this or do this, ours is very on brand,” says Magill. “You will just see the IPs, the flames of the Mockingjay, the cards in Now You See Me, it’s beautiful on these screens.”
The best in the business
Thinkwell Group is a global design and production agency. It creates custom, content-driven experiences for companies and brands in the physical world.
For Lionsgate Entertainment World, the choice to work with Thinkwell was a straightforward one, as Magill explains. “Thinkwell is just the best in the business when it comes to immersion and theming. And also when it comes to creating, conceptualising and creating the vision. They have really been the most wonderful partners. They have finished designing and creating the project which is coming to life in just a few weeks.”
Ryner agrees, “It really has been amazing, this really was a turn-key opportunity for us. Lionsgate said we want you to design and produce this, we want to sign as few contracts as possible. We put together a rock star team – it wasn’t about what is the cheapest way, it was what is the BEST way. The best way to develop something that was really setting the new gold standard in China but also internationally.”
“We have just come off of creating Warner Bros Abu Dhabi which is the polar opposite,” continues Ryner. “Lionsgate is all about 16 years and up, edgy, dare I say it sexy IPs, as opposed to cartoon characters. So for us to get to play in a completely different sandbox like that and create something that pushes our limits with technology…its something we can’t do in a kids park.”
For Thinkwell, the project involved a lot of innovative design and some real firsts. Not only is the attraction the world’s first vertical park, but it is also the world’s first use of motorbike path changing technology.
“Considering its only 25,000 sqm, what we crammed into the space – it’s very special,” agrees Ryner. However, the design process was not without its unique challenges. “The great thing about space issues is the challenges force you to new creative ideas,” says Ryner. “There are things that came out of playing around with this complicated space. The design is wholly unique because the space isn’t like a flat ground like Warner Bros. So challenges always end up bringing the best out of everyone. I’m really proud of some of the solutions we came up with and how we bring people up into the vertical-ness of the space.”
Setting the bar high
The park estimates visitor figures of 1.4 – 1.5 million people per year. The location of the new attraction will be a key factor in its popularity. It lies in close proximity to Macau and Hong Kong, thanks to the Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau bridge, as well as the whole greater bay area.
There is a huge local population within reach. Chimelong Ocean Kingdom is also nearby. With the shopping mall and the new National Geographic Experience, there is a lot to draw visitors to the area. Lionsgate Entertainment World is likely to attract a majority of visitors from mainland China, the greater bay area, and Macau. However, it also expects a percentage of international visitors.
“We want them to have a good time at the theme park and return lots of times. We want people to come to the park for that same reason. The other thing with our park is you can come and dine at the cafe, or visit the studio store and not have a ticket to get into the park. People with tickets can come and go in the park. If they want to pop out do some shopping and pop back in they can do that as well.”
Lai Sun Group
Lai Sun Group is a Hong Kong-based company with a number of developments in entertainment and real estate. It developed the site.
“They have also been fantastic for us to work with,” says Magill. “Lai Sun Group brought on the IPs which is Lionsgate. They then worked with Thinkwell to conceptualise the theme parks and Village Roadshow to take on the operations and run the park.”
Lai Sun Group developed the building previously and has since re-done it for Lionsgate Entertainment World. The mall, hotel and welcome centre were already in place. Magill explains, “Before Lionsgate was in the plans, the area was going to be more shopping mall space. The fact that they have been able to fit all this into the exterior of the building, a big jelly bean, to retrofit all of it and make such good use of the space is incredible.”
A personalised visit
There is no set path to follow for visitors to the new Lionsgate Entertainment World. Guests can explore in whatever order they like. They can enjoy a personalised journey without being bogged down with showtimes or routes.
Ticketing information and details will be released shortly. Magill says, “We have priced fairly to the market and we have done a lot of work with our online travel trade agents.”
Magill is clearly a fan of the new rides. She is also proud of the huge amount of work that has gone into creating the atmosphere. She raves about the VR motorbike ride featuring Jacob. When it comes to the ultimate Twilight fan question however, she is quick to answer, “Team Edward, definitely!”