H.K. Disneyland gets boost

Disney denies Shanghai park deal

HONG KONG -- Flagging attendance at Hong Kong Disneyland could get a boost from changes signed Tuesday to the territory's free trade agreement with China.

New measures added to the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement between Hong Kong and China will allow Chinese who are not residents of neighboring Guangdong province, but who have lived and worked in the Hong Kong border city of Shenzhen for over a year, to visit Disneyland in state-authorized group tours.

The $3.5 billion theme park, jointly owned by Walt Disney Co. and the Hong Kong government, has seen disappointing attendance numbers since opening in September 2005.

In related news, rumors of a second Chinese Disneyland, in Shanghai, resurfaced after Reuters cited unnamed sources talking about documents it said proved the existence of an agreement between Disney and the Shanghai government to build a new theme park in China's largest city.

Sources told Reuters the agreement--which Disney denied--would be announced after the Beijing Olympics and could allow Disney an advantage over other major Hollywood studios--giving it room to sidestep Chinese media restrictions such as the foreign film import quota, holiday blackout periods for imported films, and television censorship.

Under the alleged agreement, Disney would be able to produce films, television shows and Web content to promote its brand as a way to boost attendance to the theme park, Reuters said.

A Disney spokesperson refuted the claims Wednesday, saying "There is no agreement and there is no deal regarding a theme park in Shanghai."

Launched in 2003, CEPA created 36,000 new jobs and HK$5.1 billion ($653.8 million) in new investments in Hong Kong in the first three years, government data shows.