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Hong Kong Disneyland in line for a $1.4-billion expansion, adding a 'Frozen' themed land in a bid to boost growth

A proposed $1.4-billion expansion of Hong Kong Disneyland, which experienced a notable drop in attendance last year, would add a “Frozen” themed land and a Marvel area to the 11-year-old theme park, Walt Disney Co. said Tuesday.

Other additions to the property would include a remodeled Sleeping Beauty Castle and a new entertainment venue based on “Moana,” Walt Disney Studios’ hoped-for animated hit that bows Wednesday.

The project would mark the biggest investment in Hong Kong Disneyland since it opened in 2005 and is intended to boost growth at the smallest of Disney’s dozen theme parks.

Attendance at Hong Kong Disneyland, which is co-owned by Disney and the government of Hong Kong, dropped by 9.3% to 6.8 million people in 2015, according to an annual report by the Aecom consulting firm and Themed Entertainment Assn., an industry group.

Hong Kong Disneyland also reported a loss of about $20 million for the 12 months ending September 2015. 

The property was hurt by Hong Kong’s slowing economy and a decline in the number of tourists who visited from mainland China in the aftermath of the 2014 pro-democracy protests that roiled the semiautonomous Chinese territory.

The park’s expansion plan, which would begin in 2018 and wrap up by 2023, is subject to approval by Disney’s board of directors and the Legislative Council of Hong Kong. (Disney has a 47% stake in the joint venture.)

“This proposed expansion brings the best of the Walt Disney Co. to this wonderful tourist destination, giving guests an experience only Disney can deliver and infusing some of Disney’s most beloved characters and stories into this unique destination,” Bob Chapek, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, said in a statement.

The announcement comes six months after Disney opened a $5.5-billion resort in mainland China, which is a huge growth market for the company’s movies, TV shows and merchandise.

Burbank-based Disney debuted Shanghai Disney Resort, a project under development for more than a decade, in June. Aecom and Themed Entertainment Assn. have yet to release attendance data for the property’s Shanghai Disneyland park, but Disney Chief Executive Robert Iger touted the early returns there during a recent conference call with Wall Street analysts, saying 4 million people have visited it since its opening.

Iger said in the call that the opening of Shanghai Disneyland has not had a negative impact on the Hong Kong property. "In fact, there was some uptick initially on Hong Kong attendance when Shanghai opened," Iger said. "There seems to be an interesting growth and pride locally in Hong Kong in that park.”

Disney has two other parks in Asia: Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea. According to Aecom and Themed Entertainment Assn., Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea both had at least double the visitors of Hong Kong Disneyland in 2015, although both properties also experienced modest year-over-year attendance declines.

daniel.miller@latimes.com

Follow @DanielNMiller on Twitter for film business news.

 

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