Studio City 2015

Studio City in Macau finally opened its doors this week amidst a massive economic downturn in the city. (Image: Reuters)

Studio City, Macau’s newest casino and entertainment resort, has opened its doors to the public.

The Melco Crown venture, in which former Crown Resorts boss James Packer has a controlling interest, has been years in the making.

But despite an economic downturn that has terrified casino bosses across the city, the multi-billion dollar project has finally been completed.

Packer’s RatPac cohort Brett Ratner was in attendance at the gala opening, with Hollywood big guns Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro in tow.

Ratner had recruited the trio of heavyweights to make a promotional ‘trailer’ for Studio City called ‘The Audition’. The short film, premiered this week at the opening, features De Niro and DiCaprio as rival stars attending a once-in-a-lifetime audition.

Hollywood producer and director Ratner set up RatPac Entertainment with Packer. The pair celebrated Oscar success earlier this year when their Birdman film won Best Picture.

Hollywood Arrives in Macau

Studio City cost $3.2 billion (AUD4.5 billion) to build, and by all accounts every penny has been well-spent.

The complex features Asia’s largest ferris wheel, a Gotham City-inspired ‘flight ride’, and a hall of mirrors that reportedly cost $40 million (AUDxxxxx) to put together.

The integrated resort also includes a five-star hotel and a casino with over 200 tables.

VIPs will be shunned in favour of the ‘mass market’ gamblers so coveted by China’s government. In fact, the number of gaming tables is half of what the developers originally wanted.

Speaking to reporters, Melco Crown boss Lawrence Ho said:

“We believe this is the future of China…The rise of the middle-income earning bracket and the rise of the more sophisticated well-travelled customer.

“In the last 10 years we always believed that the mass tables would be leading the Macau market.”

As expected, Packer’s current squeeze Mariah Carey was at the opening ceremony to belt out a few numbers.

It’s no wonder Scorsese and pals were in attendance this week.

Studio City is as Hollywood-themed as you’re likely to find in Macau. Warner Bros. is a partner in the new scheme with its Batman ride, a 15-minute adventure that sees ‘Batman’ confronted with the Joker and other Batman baddies.

The resort also caters for the young ones with a 40,000-sq.ft play zone, complete with famous Warner Bros. cartoon characters like Tweety Pie and Sylvester.

For the US giant, it’s a way in to a potentially lucrative Chinese market. Disney is one of several big US studios currently developing theme parks in China.

Macau Still On the Slide

Macau’s big casinos are still reeling from a series of knocks that has seen revenue plummet.

A crackdown on corruption by the Chinese government and a curtailing of Chinese money flowing through the city has contributed to the slump.

In addition, smoking bans have been introduced in Macau casinos, and the Chinese mainland has been very vocal in wanting Macau to diversify its tourist attractions.

Studio City, with its Hollywood big-hitters and fun zones is the first step towards ‘diversification’.

Macau’s ‘integrated’ resorts have suffered in 2015 with shares dropping 39 percent year on year.

But with President Xi Jinping’s rally call for Macau to remake itself, casino bosses are listening. Sands China and Galaxy are both busy building new-style resorts.

It will be interesting to see how these new entertainment complexes impact on the city’s fortunes.

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