Hollywood film studio Lionsgate opened its first adult-oriented Asian theme park this Summer with Lionsgate Entertainment World, launching in Hengqin, Zhuhai. The studio partnered with the Thinkwell Group and Village Roadshow Theme Parks to create the stunning movie-themed vertical park over multiple floors. Lionsgate Entertainment World worked with CAVU Designwerks, Dreamcraft Attractions, Framestore and ETF on the groundbreaking technology behind the new rides.
The 240,000-square-foot indoor park will offer 25 different attractions including several of Lionsgate Films famous franchises: The Hunger Games, Twilight, Divergent, Now You See Me, Gods Of Egypt, and Escape Plan.
The most-anticipated rides will be in The Hunger Games attraction, which will include state of the art simulators and themed dining like the Capitol Club and Peeta’s Bakery as well as themed shopping venues like Capitol Couture, a custom shop for the most outrageous wardrobe. The Gods of Egypt attraction will include an indoor virtual reality roller-coaster, and the Divergent Dauntless attraction will be more interactive with physical challenges on a virtual gangplank.
With an entire level devoted to The Hunger Games, visitors will be immersed in the wealthy Capitol City with a gold and marble streetscape, a themed gourmet restaurant, a bakery, and a hair salon inspired by the outrageous styles in the film.
The violent themed film features children taken by the government to fight in bloody arenas with axes and bows. Visitors can emulate their favorite heroine Katniss Everdeen in the thrilling rides without gore but with a lot more darkness and suspense than most theme parks.
Fans will undoubtedly line up for the Mockingjay Flight: Rebel Escape, ride which takes you on an ATV through 3-D projections as you flee the city and the evil peacekeepers. The ride confronts you with splashes of black tar, electrified nets, fire and genetically engineered wasps that attack around you.
The Twilight Saga attraction is the world’s first multiplayer, interactive, hyper-reality VR motorbike simulator experience. Visitors will race alongside Jacob and the Wolf Pack on a dramatic and dark adventure through the moonlit woods.
The park is located one hour from Hong Kong, part of an ambitious project called Novotown, an integrated tourism and entertainment development. It will be managed by Village Roadshow Theme Parks with backing by the Hong Kong Lai Sun Group. Future offerings at the park include a Real Madrid World with a Flying Theatre thrill-ride experience from a soccer ball’s point of view, and a Ducati themed motorcycle racing experience.
I spoke with Dave Cobb, a creative director at Los Angeles-based Thinkwell Group who helped design the project and he filled me in on what makes this attraction so unique, and what lies ahead for future adult-themed parks.
What makes this theme park so special?
DAVE COBB: “We have created the first PG 13 theme park by design. When the client came to us, the development that they are building has multiple components to it and they specifically wanted attractions to appeal to the Chinese young adult dating crowd. The dating crowd in their 20’s and 30’s in China goes out in large groups and the brands we were looking at were of that ilk.”
“Lions Gate was the perfect fit because their brands were almost exclusively young adult and leaned towards a more sophisticated sort of storytelling. The world of The Hunger Games is so much larger than the arena. When you start seeing the larger world of Panem and the heroism of the resistance and the kookiness of the fashion within the Capitol, there are lots of different ways we can immerse people in that world. When you visit the World of The Hunger Games in this park, you are actually in Panem and its that tension between the over the top elements in the Capitol with the rebellion that is fighting against it. Like any good theme park attraction, there is dramatic tension. Visitors can become part of the resistance and also part of the Capitol where you can get made over like ‘Effie Trinket’ with fashion and hair.”
How do you impress the most jaded audience?
DAVE COBB: “This audience in China is very tech-savvy and enjoy VR and technology and because its an indoor park specifically for this demographic, that also put us at a lower capacity level than most theme parks. The rides themselves can be more intimate and we can lean into some technologies that we would normally shy away from in theme parks. You see a lot of VR experiences out there but they are very low capacity and hard to scale up for something like a large world-class theme park.”
“In this park, we got to use VR in three different ways and that is enabled by the size and demographics of the audience. We get to immerse people in these incredibly lush and visual worlds and combine motion simulation and physical effects that surround you and map you into this digital world and an extension of the physical world you are interacting with on the ride. The headline VR attraction at the park is called Midnight Ride and is based on the Twilight Saga, and it’s the world’s first multi-player, interactive, hyper-reality VR simulator where you actually sit on a motorcycle and you race alongside the wolf pack on this dirt bike adventure that has complete rider freedom. It’s not just a canned simulator film that is pre-rendered and is a world you can explore as you ride.”
“That is a game-changer when you are talking about a theme park attraction with a fairly high capacity. We also created the first purpose-built virtual reality coaster called Gods of Egypt-Battle for Eternity. We trick the riders with the coaster layout that you actually go through twice at different speeds. That way its twice as long of an experience in only half the footprint we would normally do which was necessary for an indoor park. But its using VR to actually expand the world beyond the physical coaster that you ride.
What does the future of theme parks look like?
DAVE COBB: “Theme parks will open up more storytelling where you are not just a passive bystander in attractions anymore. The successful attractions are not only the ones that write you into the story both emotionally and physically, but also through interaction or choices you make. That kind of interactivity is what will set future attractions apart because we are dealing with an audience that has been raised on video games.”