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SeaWorld looks beyond its parks for growth

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June 04, 2011

Freed from the constraints of owners more interested in brewing beer than building theme parks,SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment is accelerating plans to expand into new businesses, including movies, television and hotels.

After flirting with the idea for years, the Orlando-based theme-park operator will release a feature film this month through SeaWorld Pictures, the company's new film division. The sea-turtledocumentary, expected to reach as many as 400 theaters this summer, is the first of what executives hope will be a long line of SeaWorld-produced nature films that capitalize on the company's reputation for marine-life expertise and buttress it against criticism from anti-captivity activists.

SeaWorld wants to make more than movies eventually. Company executives say they are exploring new projects in television, publishing and consumer products.

At the same time, SeaWorld is working on plans to build its first hotel. And it says it is making progress toward its first international theme park, with the most likely location somewhere in Southeast Asia.

With such projects, SeaWorld is borrowing a page from the playbooks of other large theme-park operators such as the Walt Disney Co., all of whom are searching out new sources of growth to confront what experts say is a nearly maxed-out American theme-park market. Walt DisneyParks and Resorts has devoted much of its capital spending in recent years to building up "flanker" businesses, such as cruises and time shares, and to international expansion, including the $4.4 billion Shanghai Disneyland resort scheduled to open in about five years.


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