Stephen Chow Signs Deal for 'Journey to the West' Theme Park

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The actor-director will have a 25 percent stake in the 173-acre amusement park, set to open in 2015 in the Chinese city of Wuzhen, 90 minutes from Shanghai.

HONG KONG -- Stephen Chow Sing-chi has been traveling the lengths and breadths of China for the past few weeks promoting his CGI-blockbuster Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons. But his trip to Wuzhen -- a city with a population of 60,000 (tiny by Chinese standards) -- is of as much significance to him as any other stop in his nationwide tour: He was visiting the town, which is a 90-minute car ride from Shanghai, to help cement his cinematic legacy in the form of a new theme park based on his latest film.

Appearing with Dong Ping, the chairman of Hong Kong-listed China Vision Media, Chow inked a deal that will give him a 25 percent stake in a project tentatively titled "Journey to the West Film City," with its central theme revolving around not just Chow’s current film, but also installments from the A Chinese Odyssey franchise, his 1990s adaptations of the titular classic Chinese novel.

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According to a report in the Beijing Times newspaper, the company’s vice-president, Wang Jing, said the complex would boast “high-tech entertainment”, elements of cultural tourism, hotels, exhibition and commercial facilities. The site will take up an area of about 700,000 square meters (about 173 acres).

Construction is slated to begin in the second half of 2013, with the first parts of the complex opening to the public in 2015, the company said. The Beijing Times report said Chow and a China Vision Media subsidiary signed an undisclosed agreement last October with a view towards collaborating on film-themed entertainment complexes and theme parks.

By Thursday, Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons has taken in 853 million yuan ($136 million) since it opened on Feb. 10, and is now set to challenge the 1.2 billion yuan ($192 million) domestic-film box-office record set by Xu Zheng’s comedy Lost in Thailand last month.

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The Journey to the West theme park is just the latest in a line of Chinese property development projects spinning off from hit blockbusters. Last July, filmmaker Feng Xiaogang (Back to 1942) teamed up with his long-time backers, the Huayi Brothers studio, and Mission Hills Group to build a theme park based on his work.

Provincial governments, film studios and media companies are also investing in similar projects, with Changchun Film Group -- formerly a state enterprise -- reportedly investing nearly 44 billion yuan ($7.06 billion) in the construction of a theme park in the southeastern island province of Hainan.