Saturday, March 25, 2023

Gary Goddard Entertainment: the sky’s the limit


Gary Goddard talks about creating great international attractions interview

Designer/producer Gary Goddard, CEO and founder of Gary Goddard Entertainment, expanding now under the umbrella of The Goddard Group, has a long list of credits in international theme parks, theater, casinos and resorts. He’s been very active in Asia over the past 10 years or so; recent high-profile projects include the The Galaxy Macau, the 2,800 room, two billion dollar mega resort casino which opened in May of 2011. He is currently designing another mega resort casino in Macau, as well as creating a theme park and destination resort in Moscow.

What are the real hotbeds of activity on the international themed entertainment market?

Right now we find a lot going on in Macau, China, and India. Casino projects (with entertainment attractions) continue to pop up there and pretty much all over Asia, including the Philippines, Vietnam, and Japan. Everyone wants a chance to share in the revenues that can be earned from gaming.

What developments are thriving?

There are two extremes: Either (1) the smaller stand-alone attractions (such as the Merlin array of products) that are located in high density urban centers, or (2) the larger destination resorts. Also, water parks remain pretty strong in most markets as long as they are sized right for the location.

The City of Wonders project features a boutique garden theme park set within a larger urban development.
What is happening in China, in particular?

It’s a boomtown at the moment with a high number of projects being developed, designed, built and so on. The best of them will survive and prosper. That’s my biggest concern with the clients we do business with – conveying a longterm perspective. You are building to compete and to “win” over many years. Also, most Chinese developers and owners don’t really know the industry and it’s important for them to take the time necessary to thoroughly vet the firms they engage to create attractions for them. If they say “we can do it all,” make sure they can actually deliver on that statement.

Do you see a trend of integrating themed entertainment with residential properties?

Yes, to some degree. This has manifested in China, and I think the Indian market will want something along these lines as well.

Tell us a little about your experience in the gaming market, which seems to be an increasingly strong area for you.

With my background going back to several Las Vegas projects – the Caesars Palace expansion master planning, The Venetian conceptual design and the planning for the original MGM – plus interiors for and attractions for the original Sydney Harbor Casino (aka “Star City”) in Sydney, Australia., and most recently, the concept and master planning of the Galaxy Macau, we have a unique understanding of how to combine gaming, hospitality, food & beverage, retail, and entertainment into a completely integrated experience, and the creation of iconic visitor destinations that become magnets for guests. Along those lines, stay tuned for details of an unprecedented, new project in Macau that will be announced soon, that I assure you will become the new #1 destination there.

What are some standout differences – and preferences – between East and West when it comes to theme park projects?

Mainly gastronomic – the East and West have very different tastes when it comes to food, as some park operators have learned the hard way. In terms of entertainment, it seems that people in East and West share the same desire for a mix of thrills, fun, scares, and wonders. I do think that designers and developers alike should give more attention to the role landscaping plays – this is especially underappreciated in the East. But having said that, it’s more than just landscaping – it’s the creation of unique immersive spaces that engage the emotion of the guests. Easy to understand intellectually, but much more difficult to execute in reality. Audiences in the East love big effects shows when done right.

How do you think IP can be protected in countries like China?

This is a major subject that needs to be addressed by our industry. After looking into it following a bad experience, I have come to the conclusion that there are insufficient avenues of legal recourse for resolving IP disputes in China and some other Asian countries. On the other hand, we have had some very positive working relationships. It seems, the more closely the owners or developers are tied to the central government, the more respectful of rights, and of rule of law they are. The short answer is: Proceed at your own risk.

What project out there right now do you think has the most potential to be a “game changer” for the Asian market?

There is reason to think that Disney is about to deliver something truly astounding in Shanghai. I certainly look forward to a dynamic new theme park experience in there and I truly want to be filled with wonder again with a major Disney project operating on all engines. And, speaking from personal experience having worked closely with James Cameron as co-creator and director/ producer on the revolutionary Terminator 2/3D, I look forward to seeing Disney’s collaboration with him on AVATAR. I think this will be something truly unique, exciting, dynamic and wondrous, and I am quite sure any AVATAR land or park will make its way to Shanghai and/or Hong Kong. Of course I have to mention that the GALAXY MACAU was called a “game changer” by Macau Business Magazine and is generally credited with setting a new approach to design for the Cotai Strip – and I like to think that some of our newer projects still in development – in several different countries – will also take their place as game-changers for the entire industry. For me, the excitement is in creating new and never-before-experienced attractions and resorts.

Your Asian portfolio continues to expand. Why are projects continually coming to GG from Asia?

I think it’s our reputation for quality in terms of design and execution. And our track record of having designed projects that actually get built. We have been very busy in our first ten years as The Goddard Group – with more than a dozen projects around the world actually being built and open in that time. Currently we’ve another five projects in various stages of construction with openings planned in 2013, 2014, and 2015. All of our projects have been successful in terms of numbers, and visually iconic in a way that increases attendance. We have worked hard to become the “go to guys” for making large and small projects a reality throughout China and Asia.

What do you think is the “next big thing” people don’t yet know about in Asia?

Well, I do know the answer to that, but you don’t think I am going to let the cat out of the bag here do you? That’s the kind of information that leads to new projects. So for now, I’ll respectfully decline to answer. • • •

Martin Palicki
Martin Palicki
Martin Palicki owns and publishes InPark Magazine. Started in 2004, InPark Magazine provides owners and operators the perspective from "in"side the "park." Martin has also written for publications like Sound & Communications, Lighting & Sound America, Attractions Management and others. Martin has been featured in Time Magazine, and Folio. Martin lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA.

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