Hasbro, DMG Sign Deal to Create Huge 'Transformers' Attraction in China

Transformers: Age of Extinction TV Spot - H 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction TV Spot - H 2014

The world's first live 'Transformers' experience, described as a "cross between an action-adventure spectacle, a theme park attraction and a theatrical show," will debut in China in 2017.

Optimus Prime and his band of Autobots are set to assemble in the real world — in China.

DMG Entertainment, the China-U.S.-based movie studio and co-producer of Point Break and Iron Man 3, has reached a deal with Hasbro to create Transformers Live. The robotics spectacle, expected to debut in an undisclosed Chinese city in 2017, will be the world's first live-action attraction featuring the toy brand's iconic characters.

The show will be produced by S2BN Entertainment, the live entertainment company behind Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, The Marvel Experience and Rock of Ages.

“Transformers Live will be a cross between an action-adventure spectacle, a theme park attraction and a theatrical show," said Michael Cohl, chairman of S2BN Entertainment, in a statement.

The partners will build a semi-permanent 4,500-capacity venue to house the spectacle, which will deploy a fusion of proprietary robotics technologies, high-tech projection systems and aerial stunt sequences. Sources close to the deal say Beijing is the most likely destination for the show.

"Fans will experience intense action, beautiful visual moments, an emotionally engaging story, lots of humor and rousing music," Cohl added.

The producers' decision to debut the Transformers-branded show in China comes as little surprise. The Transformers film franchise has a huge following in the country, which is set to surpass North America as the world's largest film market sometime next year. Transformers: Age of Extinction grossed $320 million in China, the third most ever in the country and substantially more than its $245 million U.S. haul (Chinese villagers have even been known to build their own life-size Transformers replicas from scrap metal).

Meanwhile, the Chinese market has seen a gold rush of location-based entertainment (LBE) construction. After investments of $5.5 billion and nearly a decade of planning and construction, Walt Disney Co.'s debut Chinese theme park, Shanghai Disney Resort, will finally open its doors this June. Dreamworks Animation's $2.4 billion entertainment fortress, meanwhile, will unveil in Shanghai in 2018, while Universal Studios is set to launch a $3.3 billion park in Beijing in 2019. Last week, Six Flags Entertainment began construction of a $4.6 billion attraction in Haiyan, south of Shanghai, the first of multiple parks it plans to build across the country over the coming decade.

"Asia and China, in particular, are seeing the highest growth rates and offer the best opportunities for expansion into the LBE business for companies looking to further monetize and leverage premium content," DMG said in a statement.

The growth in the sector, much like the rapid expansion of China's movie box office, has been fueled by the rise of China's young, urban middle-class consumers, who are hungry for modern entertainment options to match their new consumerist lifestyles. Hollywood IP holders have been hurrying to establish their brands in the massive Chinese market, despite the country's gradual economic slowdown, while the Chinese government has been promoting entertainment as a bright spot in the economy and a crucial tool of soft power. 

DMG, for its part, is pitching showbiz magic, first and foremost: “When watching a blockbuster that transports you to another world like Transformers, it’s natural to wonder what it would be like if this were real. How cool would it be to see a live Optimus Prime in full glory?” said Dan Mintz, DMG's CEO. “The Transformers Live show will appeal to the wide-eyed child in all of us who love big robots, insane action and incredible special effects.”