Thor, Iron Man, The Hulk … and Magic Johnson?
Hero Ventures, the company behind The Marvel Experience -- a touring theme park attraction featuring Marvel heroes and villains -- announced that the legendary basketball player is joining the team as an investor and board member.
Disney’s Marvel Entertainment and Hero Ventures announced the attraction in August of 2013. Housed in seven domes that span across about three acres, the Marvel Experience will feature a 4-D motion ride, the world’s only 360-degree stereoscopic full-dome and more interactive activities for attendees.
Hero Ventures is spending more than $30 million on the experience, which will preview in Phoenix from Dec. 19 to Jan. 3 and officially launch in Dallas on Jan. 10.
Johnson, the former Los Angeles Laker and Hall of Famer, is no stranger to the entertainment business. In addition to producing several films and TV series, the entrepreneur operated a slew of theaters, which AMC Theatres later purchased. He also launched a television channel called Aspire in 2012.
Under the Magic Johnson Enterprises umbrella, the entrepreneur oversees a vast empire of fitness centers, restaurants and other businesses.
He also has ownership interests in the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Los Angeles Sparks and the Los Angeles Football Club. His large charitable foundation has pumped millions of dollars into inner-city neighborhoods.
The Los Angeles Times had a few moments to chat with Johnson about his latest venture.
What drew you to the Marvel Experience?
Growing up as a kid … the Hulk and Spider-Man, Captain America, those were all my heroes. That’s what I grew up watching.
The Marvel experience and the Marvel brand overall is probably the only entertainment that appeals to everybody. Those who grew up with [Marvel] are going to enjoy [The Marvel Experience] just as much as their kids.
I had friends who already invested [Steve Tisch, Michael Cohl, Stanley Gold, etc.]. I’ve known some of these guys for such a long time. When they decided they needed one more investor and board member, they reached out to me.
When I heard about the Marvel Experience, I just said ‘this is a home run.' I knew it was going to be great for everybody.
How much did you invest in the attraction?
Over a couple of million dollars.
How is the attraction going to help local businesses and the economy?
It’s going to create hundreds and hundreds of jobs. This thing is so big. When you think about what it’s going to take to man it, you’re talking about the parking, the food concessions … it’s a lot of jobs.
A lot of these places don’t have Disneyland or Disney World sitting there but we become that, all in one.
You are a big philanthropist. Any plans to involve your foundation with the show?
Yes. We’re already involved … we’re talking about that now. We do want to touch the cities that we go to, starting off in Phoenix, and make sure we give back.
The show is very affordable already but we'll be working on how we can bring those groups who can't afford it in from the inner cities...maybe even bus some kids in.
Last but not least, who is your favorite Marvel character?
The Hulk, he’s No. 1. Iron Man, too - he’s No. 1-B. I haven’t missed any of these [Marvel] movies.
When I was a kid it was Spider-Man because, growing up, I thought he was the coolest … going from building to building using just his fingers. I dressed up as him [for trick-or-treating]-- he was the man back when I was growing up.
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