Sony Corp. has given its Columbia Pictures Entertainment unit the go-ahead for "Sonyland" amusement parks to compete with Disney and Universal studios in the theme park business, the project chief said.
Details on cost, a construction timetable and location for the Sonyland parks won't be available until the end of the year, Columbia said."Columbia has been developing plans for a theme park or parks with a working name of Sonyland," said Paul Schaeffer, executive vice president of corporate affairs for Columbia, who is spearheading the project.
"We anticipate multiple locations, but none have been identified," Schaeffer said.
The Sonyland proposal comes on the heels of the Japanese firm Matsushita Electric Industrial Co.'s recent purchase of MCA Inc., parent of Universal Studios. Tokyo-based Sony bought Columbia in 1989.
Asked if he would agree the Japanese seem infatuated with theme parks, Schaeffer said: "I think so. They always like to be one step ahead. Sony is a creative company and will come up a creative, technology-oriented, out-there attraction."
Sonyland will unite characters, rides and exhibits employing Sony technology and hardware, he said. The park will draw its creative inspiration from the software of Columbia Pictures, Tri-Star Pictures, Colpix Television and CBS Records, now known as Sony Music.
Disney and Universal had no comment on the Sonyland proposal.
Director Steven Spielberg and his Amblin Entertainment may have a role in the project. Spielberg is directing Tri-Star's upcoming "Hook," starring Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman, and Capt. Hook's pirate ship and the tree house in Never Never Land could end up as permanent attractions at Sonyland.
"We do have a relationship with him and I'm not ruling it out," Schaeffer said.
Spielberg, however, is the creative consultant for the Universal Studios theme park in Florida, and Amblin is located on the Universal studios lot.
Sonyland would join an increasingly crowded theme park market in Southern California. Disney plans an ocean-oriented park in Long Beach and a second major attraction in Anaheim.
Southern California theme parks are experiencing lean times.
Attendance figures released last week showed a decline in visitors at the major parks in 1990.
Anaheim's Disneyland temporarily cut its ticket price for customers from Southern California in a move to generate business during the most sluggish months of the year.
Nearby Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, which recently reduced admission prices 40 percent, has closed two days a week until mid-February.