Universal Studios Singapore courts 8 for lucky launch

Thu Mar 18, 2010 9:46am EDT
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By Nopporn Wong-Anan SINGAPORE, March 18 (Reuters Life) - The world's fourth Universal Studios welcomed its first visitors on Thursday with a lavish ceremony aimed at attracting luck, and repeat business, to the Singapore theme park which hopes to avoid the fate of loss-making Hong Kong Disneyland.

Doors were flung open to the public at precisely 08:28 a.m. on March 18, after 18 Chinese lions blazed through the entrance at 08:08 a.m., as the number 8 is considered by many in mostly ethnic Chinese Singapore as auspicious.

Actresses dressed up like Marilyn Monroe and Betty Boop paraded with the lion-dancing troupe along Hollywood Boulevard, one of the seven themed zones in the 20-hectare park that aims to attract 4.5 million visitors in its first year.

"We have ambitions that this would be the No. 1 destination in Asia and also Europe as far as theme parks are concerned," Genting Group chairman Lim Kok Thay told reporters after the opening ceremony.

Asked if Universal Studios Singapore could lose its novelty quickly and suffer losses like Hong Kong's Disneyland, Lim said: "Definitely not, we are different from Disney."

He adding the park would bring in more rides over the next three years to keep the experience "fresh" for visitors.

Since opening to fanfare in 2005, Disney's first magic kingdom in China struggled to attract the expected flood of visitors from mainland China, and has been criticized as being too small to attract repeat visitors.

In 2008, it made a net loss of $170 million and is now undergoing an expansion aimed at bolstering its competitiveness with a rival Disneyland scheduled to open in Shanghai in the next five or six years.

The 24 attractions at Universal Studios include the world's tallest dueling rollercoaster -- where two rollercoasters shoot off at the same time and loop around each other -- plus a 4-D cinema and rides based on Hollywood films such as "Madagascar" and "Jurassic Park".   Continued...

<p>Visitors ride the "Battlestar Galactica" duelling roller coaster at the Universal Studios theme park in Singapore March 18, 2010. The park features a variety of attractions including roller coasters and pyrotechnic shows. It is part of the Resorts World Sentosa development, which includes a casino and four hotels in addition to the theme park on Singapore's Sentosa Island. REUTERS/Vivek Prakash</p>