Russian Theme Park Battle Intensifies as DreamWorks Signs Local Partner

MOSCOW, RUSSIA -A general view of Red square and Kremlin-Getty-H 2016
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Three seperate film-themed parks — from DreamWorks, NBC Universal and Viacom/Sony — are set to open in Russia by 2018.

DreamWorks Animation has announced a new partner for its DreamPlay theme park in Moscow, further intensifying what is quickly becoming a theme park gold rush in Russia.  

The studio announced it will join forces with local company Innova on DreamPlay and expects to open the park in 2018. Innova plans to invest $15 million in DreamPlay, which will be located inside Moscow's Aviapark shopping mall. Innova said it expects to recoup its investment within five years, according to a report in local business daily Kommersant.

Construction is set to begin January 2017, with DreamPlay opening its doors to customers in the first quarter of 2018. Within its first year of operation, DreamPlay expects to have more than 450,000 customers. Its rides and shows will be in part inspired by characters from DreamWorks Animation films, such as Shrek and Kung Fu Panda.

But DreamPlay is only one of three big theme park projects underway in Russia. Viacom and Sony are working together with local animation studio Soyuzmultfilm and Russian company Regiony on Ostrov mechty (Dream Island), located in the southern section of Moscow. According to Russian media reports, NBC Universal could break ground on its own Moscow-based theme park — in the works for years — early next year. All three parks are scheduled to open in 2018.

Currently, Russia has no theme parks by international brands, which makes the niche desirable for major international players. The entertainment and retail segments are doing well in Russia despite the overall economic downturn, making projects of that kind popular with investors.

So popular, in fact, that NBC Universal and DreamWorks are going ahead with their separate theme parks despite NBCU's takeover of DreamWorks Animation earlier this year.