Monday, January 13, 2014

Boutique Parks

By Justin Martin

The first (and quite possibly the last) boutique park designed and seen through to completion was none other than SeaWorld’s Discovery Cove.

Discovery Cove is a unique “boutique park” because it caters to one central idea that provides an intimate experience for a select number of guests per day.

Discovery Cove was created to provide animal experiences where guests can swim, pet and meet live animals in a naturally themed environment. A small number of guests are allowed into the park through advanced reservations to experience this one of a kind park.

Last week, I wrote about "Lord of the Rings" and wondered if that franchise could inspire its own park. This question can be pointed towards any of the major film franchises... from the" Lord of the Rings" to "Harry Potter" to "Star Wars."

Could these powerful franchises have enough intellectual property to inspire an entire park? The simple answer is no.

Now before I hear the boo-birds let me explain.

The main problem of having an entire themed park based upon just a single property is that it only appeals to a narrow group of fans. Sure, the world fell in love with Harry Potter and his friends... but the majority of park visitors wouldn’t want to spend an entire day in that world.

Harry Potter works at Universal because after a few hours in Hogsmeade, you can journey to Jurassic Park or Seuss Landing or Marvel Superhero Island. Those lands appeal to all types of people... not just fans of the film.

While "super fans" would love an entire day's experience of nothing but Harry Potter or Star Wars, we won't see a 5th Gate at Disney or Universal's rumored 3rd gate themed to just a single franchise, no matter how popular.

The expansion at Disney California Adventure cost upwards of 1 billion dollars.  That's the average amount to build a entire park now.

The cost to build an park based on just one property is outweighed by time.

Every franchise has a time period during which it is popular.  At some point, that popularity will fade.

While we would love to see an entirely immersive park themed completely around our favorite films, I think it is safe to say we won’t see a boutique park again.

But I do believe we are beginning to see a new era of super themed and high immersive lands in the future.

Next week, see how the battle for the immersive experience is being fought on two different battlefields in Orlando when Universal takes on Disney.

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