February 18, 2016 2:24 am JST
Japanese theme parks

USJ may cancel planned Okinawa launch

OSAKA -- The operator of Universal Studios Japan in Osaka may jettison plans to set up another theme park in Okinawa Prefecture due to profitability concerns, sources close to the matter told The Nikkei.

     The news is certain to disappoint local communities anxious for an economic boost from the facility.

     USJ Co. had planned to open its second theme park in Japan inside the national Ocean Expo Park, which currently has an aquarium popular with tourists. The company was going to invest some 60 billion yen ($525 million) to install major attractions with an aim of drawing 6 million visitors a year. Plans called for the park to launch as early as 2020.

     But U.S. cable TV giant Comcast, which acquired 51% of USJ's outstanding shares for about 184 billion yen last November, is apparently hesitant to move forward with the plan. A fresh study conducted under a new USJ CEO from Comcast concluded that the visitor counts may not be large enough to justify the hefty investment.

     The Osaka theme park likely will draw almost 14 million visitors in the fiscal year ending in March, marking a second straight annual record. But some analysts have expressed concerns over future growth, noting that the maximum capacity is probably around 15 million people. This led USJ to prepare to open more theme parks, the first of which was going to be in Okinawa.

     The central government and localities supported the project with hopes of revitalizing the local economy. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga visited the site of the planned theme park as a gesture of support. USJ may face objections from interested parties in discussions toward canceling the project.

(Nikkei)

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