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A possible new player in the business: who wants to visit Amazon World?

Following Amazon’s recent purchase of MGM, does it have the IP and the motivation to create a new theme park?

Opinion
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By Lance HartScreamscape

It was recently announced that the online retail behemoth Amazon has signed a deal to purchase MGM for $8.45 billion. Now, let that sink in for a moment. $8.45 billion…that’s more than Disney paid to buy Marvel and Lucasfilm combined. According to the experts, that purchase includes the rights to over 4,000 movies and about 17,000 hours of TV programming. 

On the surface, this could be a quick media grab for programming to add to Amazon Prime’s video streaming service. In reality, it is more about keeping up with the upsizing of other mega-corporations merging with media companies.

MGM-Leo-the-lion-logo
Image: Metro Goldwyn Mayer

This follows the purchase of 20th Century Fox by The Walt Disney Company, ahead of the launch of Disney+. And the more recent move of AT&T merging WarnerMedia with Discovery, with the likelihood that HBOMax and Discovery Plus could eventually merge into an event bigger screaming service. One that could take on Netflix and the Disney owned Disney+ and HULU services.

Earlier this year we also saw the former CBS All Access relaunched with new Viacom/Paramount media packages as Paramount+, as well as Comcast’s launch of its own streaming service, Peacock. This blends together content from the NBC and Universal libraries. 

Amazon, MGM and a history in the theme park sector

MGM has one other thing that makes it stand out amongst the media giants. This is the fact that the MGM name has been attached to at least two theme parks over the years.

Under the control of Michael Eisner in 1984, Disney began to design a third park for Walt Disney World. One that would have a Disney Studios theme. Eisner signed a deal with MGM to give Disney the rights to use the MGM brand name and some IPs. This was to help round out what would become the Disney-MGM Studios theme park, which opened in 1989.

Disney's Hollywood Studios Amazon theme park
Disney’s Hollywood Studios today

Often the park was simply called MGM Studios by guests visiting the theme park resort. The MGM name and logo was proudly on display at the Disney theme park until 2008. Then, the park was rebranded as Disney Hollywood Studios. 

Meanwhile, on the West Coast, MGM had also signed a deal that would bring about the MGM Grand Adventures theme park in Las Vegas. This was a small theme park attached to the backside of the MGM Grand hotel and casino. It operated from 1993 to 2002 before being shut down to allow for further casino expansion. 

Amazon owns ideal theme park IPs

Amazon theme park

With the new purchase of MGM, Amazon, which appears to have come out of the global pandemic as the most profitable company on the planet, seems ready to continue the ongoing expansion of its empire.

Amazon’s Q1 2021 earnings report shows that the company brought in $8.11 billion. In in the 12-month leading up to that point, the company brought in a total of just under $27 billion. This 12-month sum alone is more than Amazon brought in during its 2017-2019 years combined ($24.7 billion).

With excessive profits and global infrastructure in place, I had to wonder if Amazon might be willing to follow in the footsteps that most of the other multi-media giants had done at one point or another, and get involved in the world of theme parks and themed entertainment with its new collection of IPs. 

Complex film rights

Now before we get ahead of ourselves, MGM’s catalogue rights are quite complicated. It has been quickly noted that the Amazon deal does not include the rights to famous older films like The Wizard of Oz, Singin’ in the Rain or Gone With the Wind.

As a company, MGM has been bought and sold a number of times. And different owners have sold off and added to the company’s vast library over the years. For example, most of the MGM movies made before 1986 were sold in a deal to Turner Broadcasting. These same rights were then later sold, along with the Turner Classic Movies line, to WarnerMedia which currently owns them. Many are now available for streaming on HBOMax. 

Later on, MGM bought United Artists and its library of films in 1981, along with Orion Pictures, Goldwyn Entertainment, Motion Pictures Corporation of America in 1996, and PolyGram in 1997. This added another 2,000+ titles to the MGM library, all of which were not part of the previous Turner deal. Most now fall to Amazon under the new deal. 

An Amazon theme park?

So, assuming Amazon is willing, does it have the rights to enough modern relevant programming to create a theme park? Making some guesses as to the ownership of various IPs, I think they do have enough to make something work. The headline attraction of them all would be the ongoing rights to the James Bond action spy thriller franchise. This would be ideal as an anchor attraction for any theme park. 

MGM also seems to have the current rights to the Rocky & Creed franchise, the Stargate movie and TV series spinoffs, Robocop, Silence of the Lambs, Fargo, Dumb & Dumber, Vikings, The Voice, Fame, the Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure trilogy, Platoon, American Werewolf in London, Wargames, Red Dawn, Valkyrie, Hot Tub Time Machine as well as the current animated Addams Family film and the upcoming sequel.

Add to this Amazon’s own efforts to create its own programming for Amazon Prime. For instance, with shows like The Boys, The Expanse, Panic, Tales from the Loop, Hanna, The Man in the High Castle, The Handmaid’s Tale. Plus the long in development Lord of the Rings prequel series based on J.R.R. Tolkien‘s Middle Earth. 

Looking ahead

Combine these storytelling IPs with Amazon’s proven ability to make real estate and innovative infrastructure deals across the world to continue to grow the company’s massive e-commerce needs.

Add in the fact that it has an internal technology development wing able to come up with amazing new gadgets that have taken the world by storm (Hello Alexa!), and I think it is fair to say that if Amazon was to take a shine to the idea of building its own theme parks, it would be able to make it happen. 

That is if Amazon even needs to build its own theme parks. Considering how easy it was to drop nearly $8.5 billion on MGM, it wouldn’t take nearly as much to gobble up an existing theme park chain. Or perhaps it might take the route we see Paramount taking and just license out IPs under its control to existing parks who may be in need of fresh IPs, like The London Resort or perhaps to Genting SkyWorlds.

Transformers The Ride 3D Universal Studios Hollywood Amazon theme park
Universal

Even the Universal Studios parks have made a long career of borrowing the IPs from various studios to add to the mix of its own theme park attractions (Harry Potter from Warner Bros, Transformers from Hasbro, Men In Black from Sony, etc… )

One way or another, I don’t think it will be too long before Amazon invades the theme park realm. So, we had better get used to the idea. 

Top image – wjarek – stock.adobe.com

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Lance Hart

Lance Hart

Lance has been running Screamscape for nearly 20 years. Married and a father to three roller coaster loving kids, he worked for SeaWorld (San Diego and Orlando) in Operations and Entertainment for 19 years.

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