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MCA Plan for Theme Park in Florida Suffers Setback

Times Staff Writer

MCA’s plans to build a $290-million Florida studio tour suffered at least a temporary setback Friday when a proposed source of financing was cut off by the Florida legislature’s inaction on a bill.

As reported last month, the Los Angeles-based entertainment giant has sought the assistance of the Florida Retirement System Pension Fund to finance its proposed Orlando theme park. As part of its proposal, MCA asked the fund to invest $175 million in MCA’s motion picture production over a five-year period. To do so, the fund needed to secure broader authorization from the state legislature, but the session ended Friday without passage of the bill.

Last month, MCA accused a rival theme park operator, Walt Disney Productions, of trying to sabotage MCA’s plans by lobbying against the bill, but Disney denied the charges. Disney recently disclosed its own plan to build a studio tour on its vast Walt Disney World acreage near Orlando, and some analysts have expressed doubts that the crowded theme park market will support two competing tours.

E. J. Yelton, executive director of the $8-billion fund, said the pension fund does have the freedom to act on the other half of MCA’s proposal, which seeks a $150-million loan from the pension fund, to be secured by a 16-year mortgage on MCA’s Florida property. Yelton noted that First Boston, the fund’s financial adviser on the proposal, is scheduled to meet with MCA representatives this week.

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But it was unclear Friday how MCA officials will decide to proceed. When asked whether MCA will seek a different partner for its film financing, MCA President and Chief Operating Officer Sidney J. Sheinberg declined to comment.


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