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Universal Studios Dubai project revived, faces local competition

Universal Studios Dubai plans

Plans to open a new Universal Studios theme park in Dubai have been revived, with the property set to form part of a major new development dubbed Mohammed Bin Rashid City.

Announced by Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (who will modestly lend his name to the complex), the ambitious project has been labelled "a new city". It will incorporate an enormous park, over 100 "hotel facilities", expansive retail areas and the Universal Studios theme park. If it goes ahead, it will mark a step towards recovery for the emirate, which was forced to cancel a number of high-profile theme park projects after the economic crash of 2008.

The backers of the Mohammed Bin Rashid City project claim that it will attract up to 35 million visitors a year, becoming one of the Middle East's leading tourist destinations. The Universal Studios park will form part of the first phase of construction, with the second due to see the creation of the largest shopping mall in the world, the Mall of the World. Further phases will see a number of arts galleries and a centre for entrepreneurship installed on the site, which could take some 10-15 years to complete.

The Universal Studios property is described as a "family entertainment centre", and it is not clear if it will be a traditional theme park or something closer to the Marvel Adventure centre that is slated to open in Dubai in late 2013. It is hoped that the attraction will pull in around 6 million visitors per year.

The new park appears to be unrelated the stalled Universal Studios Dubailand project, which is seemingly dead in the water. At 107 square miles, Dubailand was intended to be more than twice the size of Walt Disney World and to contain high profile parks including Warner Bros. Movie World, Six Flags Dubailand, Dreamworks Studios Theme Park, and the Formula One-themed F1-X, in addition to Universal Studios and LEGOLAND parks.

If it goes ahead, the Universal Studios Dubai project will face competition from another movie-themed park that is currently under construction nearby. Dubai Adventure Studios is due to open by late 2014, and is planned to be the first wave of a three-phase, eight million square-feet development. Its backers claim that major Hollywood movie properties will be licensed for use in the park, with building work having begun early 2012.


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