Thinkwell plans Monkey King site: Zhonghong develops $1.53 bil Beijing theme park

Chinese real estate company Zhonghong has signed U.S.-based entertainment-venue developer Thinkwell to design a $1.53 billion theme park on the outskirts of Beijing based on the Monkey King legend.

The pair have been collaborating on the concept since mid-2010, and the park is slated to open in 2014. “By integrating our traditional culture with modern theme park technology, this project will provide Beijing with a Disney-quality park that tells stories important to China,” Zhonghong chairman Wang Yonghong said.

The Monkey King is a central character in “Journey to the West,” a 500-year-old folk tale by Wu Cheng’en. Armed with a magic staff, he journeys with a monk, a pig spirit and a fish spirit to India to retrieve Buddha’s scrolls to find enlightenment.

Project will have the Monkey Kingdom theme park at its core and will include conference centers, hotels, exhibition halls, retail, residential and “culturally significant entertainment.” Several shingles are working on adaptations of the legend, including TV producer Zhang Jizhong, who signed author Neil Gaiman to script a $300 million adaptation of the story.

Zhonghong is also keen on a film adaptation.

Kelly Ryner, Thinkwell’s senior veep of global business development, said: “Zhonghong Real Estate is committed to building a new franchise around the legendary Monkey King stories, and we’ve recently introduced them to a major motion picture company in Los Angeles to potentially produce the film.”

Theme parks are a growing trend in China as real estate booms and the economy continues to simmer. Disney recently broke ground on a $4.4 billion resort in Shanghai, while commercial media company Huayi Brothers is forming a joint venture with a real estate developer to build a $460 million movie theme park in Suzhou, near Shanghai.

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