AGB had the privilege of attending the official launch of Studio City in Macau this week. At the press conference on Monday 26 October, Melco Crown Entertainment (MCE) CEO Lawrence Ho and co-chairman James Packer explained what makes the project special. Co-chairman Lawrence Ho and James Packer were in attendance, alongside Hollywood celebrities Leonardo di Caprio, Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese, with hopes high the resort will help kick-start Macau's sagging fortunes.
The chairmen began by highlighting the fact that Melco Crown Entertainment has invested over $10 billion in Macau to date. Packer pointed out that they were the last to gain a concession, so theoretically they should have ended up with the worst sites, yet, “because Lawrence believed in it, we were able to get two of the best sites on Cotai,” said Packer.
Ho said that they aimed to capitalize on their location next to the Lotus Bridge, the immigration point that connects with Hengqin Island and a future station-point for the Macau Light Rapid Transit rail system. As Studio City property president Jay Dee Clayton said to AGB, with the middle class in China numbering around 130 million, there is a significant potential.
"The right to operate in Macau is a privilege", said Ho, adding the company has always strived to fulfil the government’s mandate of developing non-gaming alongside the casinos. Asked what he thought made Studio City an entertainment capital, Ho said that it starts with the DNA and architecture of the property, describing it as Gotham City mixed with old-school Hollywood glamour.
The property itself is dramatic and imposing, but feels compact and manageable compared with some of the other Cotai resorts. It certainly has a unique feel and provides a welcome change from the current offerings. The casino is beautifully designed and feels cosy rather than vast, and it was full of eager visitors when it opened at 3pm on Tuesday 27th.
Talking about the idea behind the mini-film created to commemorate the opening, The Audition, which features Robert De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, and is directed by Martin Scorsese, Packer said the casino business and the movie business are similar in that people pay to have their emotions changed. Packer pointed to the fact that media has changed with the advent of YouTube and short content, and claimed that The Audition represented the best 15 minutes of short content ever made. Producer Brett Ratner, head of RatPac Entertainment, revealed that they were hoping it will become a feature film.
The resort will be the first in Macau to cater solely for the mass market. Ho said the decision was a “no brainer” given the allocation of 250 tables. He said that he was a believer in resorts and in the growth of the middle class and added that he thought the shift that had taken place over the last 18 months was permanent. Ho says MCE has always strived to target the middle class, starting with sister Cotai property, the City of Dreams. He pointed to the fact that MCE had the most four and five star hotels in Macau, the most Michelin starred restaurants, and that House of Dancing Water had been the best non-gaming attraction so far. For his personal favorite new attraction, Ho voted for the Batman ride.
Both Packer and Ho expressed unwavering confidence in Macau, reiterating that they had continued reinvesting. City of Dreams has ongoing expansion, with a department store the size of the prestigious Landmark in Hong Kong being built, as well as a 40-storey hotel tower designed by award-winning architect, Zaha Hadid.
Ho said that he hopes Studio City will be a catalyst to turn gaming revenue around, helped by new hotels coming online next year. He stressed the importance of the upcoming infrastructure projects such as the Light Rapid Transit and the Hong Kong-Macau-Zhuhai bridge, claiming that the latter would be a “game-changer” for Macau, which he projects could accommodate more than 31 million tourists.
AGB’s favorite attraction was the Golden Reel which, on a beautiful evening at dusk, is quite spectacular. The property succeeds in providing a believable experience of being part of something special. "Have a glamorous day" is how the staff greet you at Studio City. Let’s hope it’s a glamorous future for Macau’s newest star.
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