Universal Studios, encouraged by the success of its theme parks in Spain and Japan, said Thursday it is exploring building a theme park in Germany.
The company, a division of France-based Vivendi Universal, launched a feasibility study last month for a theme park near the western German city of Krefeld, said Recreation Group spokesman Jim Yeager. But Universal officials declined to discuss details.
Yeager also dismissed a report that Universal has agreed to buy land for the park from steel giant ThyssenKrupp, saying any purchase would be contingent on the outcome of the six-month study.
"It's an ideal location," Wilfried Hampe, a German investor and consultant in the project, told Reuters. "There are 27 million people within two hours' drive of it. Neither Paris nor London can match that."
If built, the park would give Vivendi another foothold in a market dominated by Walt Disney Co., which in two weeks will open a second theme park at Disneyland Paris.
As the domestic theme park industry matures, entertainment giants such as Disney and Vivendi are seeking out foreign locales to expand their businesses, analysts say. Both companies opened theme parks in Japan last year and are studying various sites for theme parks in mainland China. Disney also is building a theme park in Hong Kong, set to open by 2006.
The proposed German theme park would be Universal's third overseas and its second in Europe. Universal also operates a park outside Barcelona, Spain, which drew about 3.3 million visitors last year. And in Japan, Universal's new $1.4-billion theme park in Osaka has been drawing 1 million visitors a month, bolstering support within Vivendi Universal to expand its theme park business.
"The U.S. [theme park] market is flat, if that, and the growth in the entertainment business has to go elsewhere," said Steve Baker, a theme park industry consultant in Orlando. But Universal officials said the German project was not definite and the company also was studying other sites in Europe and Asia for possible new theme parks.
If Universal goes ahead with the park, it probably would seek out local partners, as it has done in Japan and Spain. Universal owns 24% of the Japanese park and a 37% interest in the one in Spain.
Sources said the German park would be movie-themed, but probably not on the scale of the $1-billion-plus Universal theme parks in Hollywood and Orlando, Fla.