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Merlin Entertainments Group: Global Leisure Giant comes to Japan

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First two new attractions to open in Tokyo: Madame Tussauds Tokyo & Tokyo LEGOLAND Discovery Centre

Global leisure giant Merlin Entertainments (Merlin), the world’s second biggest visitor attraction operator, announced plans to open its first two attractions in Japan.  From early October this year Madame Tussauds, one of Merlin’s most exciting and iconic brands, will open an exhibition in one of Tokyo’s premier shopping and leisure complexes – Decks Tokyo Beach Mall in Odaiba, Tokyo Bay.  Then, in Spring 2012, a ¥1.2 billion ($15m) LEGOLAND Discovery Centre (LDC) will also open in the Mall.

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Madame Tussauds Tokyo

One of the most famous, unique and best loved leisure brands in the world, Madame Tussauds Tokyo will be the fourth to open in Asia Pacific, joining established and successful sister attractions in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Bangkok; as well as another to open early in 2012 in Sydney, Australia.

Madame Tussauds Tokyo will begin as a temporary exhibition on the 3rd floor of the Mall, featuring a collection of iconic wax figures.    However if Tokyo residents and international visitors enjoy it as much as the other 12 Madame Tussauds attractions around the world, then Merlin plans to make it a permanent feature for the future with many additional figures.

Destined to be a “must do” attraction for all visitors to the City – Madame Tussauds is the ultimate celebrity experience. Its sculptors produce wax figures of such quality and so lifelike that visitors, and celebrities alike, often have to do a double take.  With no bars, ropes or barriers around the figures visitors have no problem believing that they really are standing beside, or even ‘acting/competing’ with their heroes in some of the exciting interactive parts of the attraction which have become so popular.

Madame Tussauds’ expertise and painstaking research means it takes a minimum of 3 months to make every figure, and many are produced following sittings with the celebrities themselves, taking hundreds of separate measurements, hours matching skin tone, eye and hair colour – with every individual hair inserted separately.     No one else has this relationship with the famous – who regard inclusion in Madame Tussauds as a huge honour and recognition of their status and achievement.

Most importantly each of the Madame Tussauds’ attractions is quite different from one another, reflecting the culture, people, history and colour of the City in which they are located.   The Madame Tussauds Tokyo exhibition, although temporary, will be no exception, the company is already working with a number of top Japanese celebrities and these will be joined by other international favourites, including some exciting animated figures.

Tokyo LEGOLAND Discovery Centre

Merlin’s newest attraction concept, the permanent Tokyo LEGOLAND Discovery Centre will offer a fun, highly interactive and educational two to three-hour indoor experience ideal for families with children 3-10 years old.  Based on the ever popular LEGO brick, LEGOLAND Discovery Centres provide a unique range of interactive play areas including a 4D cinema; master classes from the LEGO Master Model Builder; exciting LEGO rides; special party rooms for birthdays and other celebrations; as well as the popular MINILAND exhibit designed to reflect the iconic buildings in each individual attraction’s location – and Merlin researchers are already developing models which will depict the best known parts of the Tokyo Skyline .   

Plans and designs are already being drawn up for the 4000 sqm site on the 6th and 7th floors of Decks Tokyo Beach Mall, and construction is expected to begin in September 2011, with the LEGOLAND Discovery Centre due to open in June 2012.  Models for Tokyo will be made in Merlin’s specialist studios around the world and shipped in during construction.

Merlin In Japan

The attractions at Decks Mall underline Merlin’s aggressive growth plan, rolling out 6/7 new sites for its exciting brands around the world every year; and continuing to invest in new experiences and improved customer service across its existing global portfolio of more than 70 attractions. Asia Pacific offers a particularly exciting development area for the company following its recent acquisition of 6 attractions in Australia/New Zealand; and the planned opening of a major LEGOLAND theme park in Malaysia in 2012.

Commenting Glenn Earlam, Managing Director of Merlin’s Midway Attractions Operating Group, which includes both Madame Tussauds and the LDCs, said:   “Japan is a very exciting marketplace and we have been looking for suitable sites in Tokyo, and other parts of the country, for some time, and believe that Decks Mall offers a great opportunity for us.     

We have chosen two of our best attractions to start – unique attractions in a very special and unique City.    The first, Madame Tussauds, even though initially it will only be in Tokyo for a few months, is a wonderful global brand, which can be adapted to reflect the people and the marketplaces in which we open, and I hope very much that if this project is a success then it may well become a fixture in Japan in the future. 

Already successful in both Europe and in the USA, and given the popularity of LEGO toys in Asia Pacific I know people here will love the LEGOLAND Discovery Centre concept.   Our experience has also shown that bringing together an exciting mix of retail, catering, and quality leisure attractions like the LEGOLAND Discovery Centres creates a whole new element to a family shopping day, delivering significant incremental business to both the Mall – and to the area as a whole.   

Such projects play an important part in Merlin’s future growth strategy for our ‘midway’ or indoor City Centre attractions.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank both Sumitomo Corporation representing our landlords at Decks Mall; and our colleagues in the local office of one of Merlin’s major shareholders, the Blackstone Group who brokered the relationship.  Without their support for our plans we would not have reached this stage.   This was a key factor in our decision to come here, and we hope that this may be just the start of Merlin’s relationship with the City, and with Japan.” 

Merlin Entertainments is continuing to look for further suitable sites across Japan and its leading cities for its brands – primarily LEGOLAND Discovery Centres and SEA LIFE – Merlin’s leading global acquarium brand.  

About Merlin

MERLIN ENTERTAINMENTS is the leading name in location-based, family entertainment, and has seen the most successful and dynamic growth of any company in the sector over the last five years. Europe’s Number 1 and the world’s second-largest visitor attraction operator, Merlin now operates over 74 attractions, six hotels/two holiday villages in 17 countries and across four continents. The company aims to deliver memorable and rewarding experiences to its 43.6 million visitors worldwide, through its iconic global and local brands, and the commitment and passion of its managers and more than 16, 000 employees. Merlin Entertainments operates the following attractions – SEA LIFE, Madame Tussauds, LEGOLAND, The EDF Energy London Eye, Dungeons, Gardaland, LEGOLAND Discovery Centres, Alton Towers Resort, Warwick Castle, Thorpe Park, Chessington World of Adventures Resort, Blackpool Tower, Heide Park, Earth Explorer, Sydney Aquarium, Sydney Wildlife World, Sydney Tower Observatory and Skywalk, Kelly Tarlton’s Antarctic Encounter Underwater World, Oceanworld Manly and Hamilton Island Koala Gallery.  All brands which are distinctive, challenging and innovative – and which have great potential for growth in the future. Visit www.merlinentertainments.biz for more information.

About Decks Mall

DECKS Tokyo Beach is located on the waterfront ‘Odaiba’, about 6km from the centre of Tokyo.  DECKS, a ‘city-resort style mall’ is a fine mixture of retail, restaurants, and amusement attractions.  It opened in July, 1996 reaching its 15th anniversary this year.  As one of the landmarks of Tokyo’s bay area, in the daytime you can enjoy the nature that surrounds Tokyo Bay, at night you can enjoy a panoramic view of the Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo’s night view.  In Tokyo, one of the largest tourist spots in Japan, DECKS located in a city-resort space with green and blue, has the following things to offer -approximately 150 shops and restaurants that interpret an urban-resort feeling, ‘Tokyo Joypolis’ the largest indoor amusement park in Japan, ‘Daiba Icchome Shotengai’ a recreation of shopping streets from the Showa-era, and the ‘Odaiba Takoyaki Museum’ a  takoyaki food court which consists of popular takoyaki eateries from Osaka.  Such qualities make DECKS a highly unique and complex amusement centre like no other in Tokyo. Visit http://www.odaiba-decks.com/ for further information.

About the Blackstone Group

BLACKSTONE  GROUP    Blackstone (NYSE: BX) is one of the world’s leading investment and advisory firms. We seek to create positive economic impact and long-term value for our investors, the companies we invest in, the companies we advise and the broader global economy. We do this through the commitment of our extraordinary people and flexible capital. Our alternative asset management businesses include the management of corporate private equity funds, real estate funds, funds of hedge funds, credit oriented funds, collateralized loan obligation vehicles (CLOs) and closed-end mutual funds. The Blackstone Group also provides various financial advisory services, including mergers and acquisitions advisory, restructuring and reorganization advisory and fund placement services. Further information is available at www.blackstone.com.

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