FILE - A Chinese worker wipes down a steel globe, emblem of the Universal Studios, in a Beijing shopping center.
FILE - A Chinese worker wipes down a steel globe, emblem of the Universal Studios, in a Beijing shopping center.

Universal Studios said on Monday it had sealed an agreement to open a $3.3 billion theme park in Beijing, the culmination of a 13-year effort to enter China's fast-growing entertainment market.

U.S. theme park operators are rushing to build in China, which has few high-quality parks but where park revenues have been growing rapidly as city dwellers spend more on entertainment and travel.

The Beijing Universal theme park, to be developed with the state firm Beijing Tourism Group Co., will have China-themed attractions in addition to well known ones based on Western brands, like the Harry Potter series.

Tom Williams, chief executive of Universal Parks and Resorts, told a news conference in Beijing that the park would also aim to draw visitors from outside China, while Hollywood director Steven Spielberg said on video that he would be participating in its design.

“There is Disneyland in Hong Kong, but there isn't really anything of equivalent quality of a tourist attraction on the mainland yet,” said James Roy, associate principle of China Market Research Group. “It has a chance to be very successful.”

Competing theme parks

It will compete against rival Walt Disney Co, which is constructing a $4.4 billion theme park set to be completed next year, as well as a $3.1 billion entertainment complex that DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc and Chinese partners are working to finish by 2016. Both of those parks will be located in Shanghai.

Universal declined to comment on an opening date but a local newspaper said the opening was slated for 2019.

Universal Studios is part of NBCUniversal, a media and entertainment unit of Comcast Corp, the largest cable company in the United States. It operates four theme parks - in Los Angeles, Orlando, Osaka and Singapore.

Comcast reported $1 billion in total theme park income in 2013.

Universal and Beijing Tourism Group [BTG] will create two joint-venture companies to build and manage the project. BTG will hold 70 percent of the construction firm, while Universal will hold 70 percent of the operating company.