Theme Park, Amusement Park and Attractions Industry News

Merlin enters Japan

A Madame Tussauds exhibition and a Legoland Discovery Centre in Tokyo will mark Merlin Entertainments’ entry into the Japanese market, starting this October.

The world’s second biggest attraction operator, which already operates full Tussauds attractions in Beijing, Shanghai and Bangkok, will open Legoland Malaysia next year, and has also taken over the operation of various attractions in Australia and New Zealand, is keen to expand its presence in the Asia Pacific region. In Japan is has chosen the Decks Tokyo Beach Mall in Odaiba, Tokyo Bay, as its launch pad into the country.

To test the water, Madame Tussauds Tokyo will open in October as a temporary exhibition featuring a collection of wax figures on the third floor of the mall. If Tokyo residents and tourists enjoy it as much as the other 12 Madame Tussauds attractions internationally (pictured is a scene from Madame Tussauds London), then Merlin plans to make it a permanent feature with many additional figures.

This will be followed in June 2012 by the ¥1.2 billion ($15m/$10.5m) Legoland Discovery Centre (LDC) a fun, highly interactive and educational two to three-hour indoor experience aimed at families with children from three to 10 years. Components will include a 4D cinema, play areas, party rooms and a Miniland exhibit featuring Lego models. Merlin researchers are already developing models which will depict the best known parts of the Tokyo Skyline. The 4,000 square-metre facility will occupy the sixth and seventh floors of  the Decks Tokyo Beach Mall, and construction is expected to begin in September 2011.

“Japan is a very exciting marketplace and we have been looking for suitable sites in Tokyo, and other parts of the country, for some time,” reveals Glenn Earlam, managing director of Merlin’s “Midway” attractions division, which includes Madame Tussauds and LDC. “We have chosen two of our best attractions to start – unique attractions in a very special and unique city. Madame Tussauds, even though initially it will only be in Tokyo for a few months, is a wonderful global brand, which can be adapted to reflect the people and the marketplaces in which we open.  Given the popularity of Lego toys in Asia Pacific I know people here will love the Legoland Discovery Centre concept.”

Merlin’s introduction to the Sumitomo Corporation, owners of the Decks Tokyo Beach Mall, was brokered by the Blackstone Group, one of the attraction operator’s major shareholders. The company is continuing to look for new sites across Japan – primarily LDC and Sea Life, its world-leading aquarium brand.

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