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USJ may scrap planned Okinawa theme park

Kyodo

The operator of Universal Studios Japan is considering scrapping plans for a theme park in Okinawa as the figures may not add up, sources said Thursday.

U.S. parent company Comcast Corp. has been reluctant to give the green light and USJ Co. is looking at whether the likely visitor numbers would make the investment worthwhile, the sources said.

The company announced its plans for an Okinawa park in March 2015. The then-CEO of USJ Co., Glenn Gumpel, said the park would be large, but not as big as the Universal Studios Japan park it runs in Osaka.

It would fit the ambience of Okinawa, he told a news conference in Osaka, saying it would not necessarily be based on movies or television programs.

USJ opened in 2001 in Osaka, where the park is now a major tourist draw.

The sources say USJ was laying groundwork for a U.S. movie theme park in Okinawa’s Ocean Expo Park — which has a range of other existing attractions, including Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium.

In July last year, Glenn Gumpel visited Okinawa and agreed to cooperate with Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga over building the park by 2020.

But the plan was put on hold after Comcast’s acquisition of a 51 percent stake in USJ in November.

At a news conference on Feb. 1, new USJ CEO Jean Louis Bonnier said little about the Okinawa plans, remarking only that the matter is under assessment.

USJ found a magical cure for low ticket sales when in July 2014 it opened a Harry Potter-themed attraction. In fiscal 2014 it drew a record 12.7 million visitors. The projections for fiscal 2015 are even rosier.

As talk continues about USJ’s possible entry into Okinawa, a proposal has arisen to try to lure a Disney resort to the prefecture.

The mayor of Ginowan city, home to U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, has suggested Disney might like to set up something on the land the base currently sits on. The central government has expressed its support for the idea.

USJ had its best month ever in October 2015, drawing around 1.75 million visitors as Halloween events attracted a large number of non-Japanese and families.

The figure surpassed the previous record of approximately 1.46 million posted in October 2014.

The count was boosted by the continued popularity of the Harry Potter attraction and Universal Wonderland, which was renovated in March to attract children and parents.

  • John Davis

    But, but, Nakaima promised!

  • johninokinawa

    Okinawa is wall to wall military bases. 20% of the land is occupied by the US military and the euphemistically named SDF is here in force too. With an emotionally unstable prime minister whose greatest desire is to relive the “glories” of the prewar Japanese empire and “fight along our American brothers,” who wants to invest in Okinawa?

    What would be the point in building a Universal Studios or any other kind of theme park here when it’s likely to be flattened by a Chinese or North Korean bomb?

    The presence of all this military is holding down the Okinawan economy. 70 years of US military occupation have done precisely nothing to change the economic status of Okinawa. It’s still the poorest prefecture.

  • johninokinawa

    Okinawa is wall to wall military bases. 20% of the land is occupied by the US military and the euphemistically named SDF is here in force too. With an emotionally unstable prime minister whose greatest desire is to relive the “glories” of the prewar Japanese empire and “fight along our American brothers,” who wants to invest in Okinawa?

    What would be the point in building a Universal Studios or any other kind of theme park here when it’s likely to be flattened by a Chinese or North Korean bomb?

    The presence of all this military is holding down the Okinawan economy. 70 years of US military occupation have done precisely nothing to change the economic status of Okinawa. It’s still the poorest prefecture.