Urban Entertainment Centers - Difficulties and chances for urban development

Research Paper (undergraduate) 2001 22 Pages

Geography / Earth Science - Demographics, Urban Management, Planning



1 Abstract

2 Introduction

3 Entertainment Market Changes
3.1 Determinants of the Leisure Behaviour
3.2 Market Determinants

4 Types of Leisure Time Facilities

5 Urban Entertainment Center
5.1 Historical Development and present Appearances
5.2 Types of Urban Entertainment Center
5.3 Externalities
5.4 Planning Opportunities

6 Conclusion

7 Bibliography

1 Abstract

This term paper is attending to the relative new appearance of the Urban Entertainment Center as a development of the entertainment market. Therefore the spatial and economical externalities of one of the stepchildren of the urban planning should be examined.

To show the economic backgrounds the market developments will be described from the demand and support side. How do societal, technological and time changing factors or processes like concentration, globalisation and privatisation determine the development of the entertainment market?

According to the changed demands, the market has produced constantly new forms of leisure time facilities. But only a certain number of types like musical theatres or leisure parks has a spatial importance because of its amount and size.

But the main focus keeps on Urban Entertainment Center as the new generation of those facilities. A short introduction into the history and the main appearances should help to define this almost inflationary used term. Emphasising the differences concerning the major components and the location the influence of UECs to processes like suburbanisation will be discussed.

The core of this work is concentrating the externalities within the urban development in the fields of the city structure, local economy as well as traffic issues and how planners and politicians could handle the phenomenon of Urban Entertainment Center.

2 Introduction

If we have a look around urban areas in the developed world today, we could notice a new phenomenon in the urban development - concentration in all kinds of function. This development is especially recognizable in the retail trade. But nowadays these processes encroach onto another segment, to the leisure industry. The whole western world is gripped by a wave of new kinds of entertainment facilities. First used as a revitalisation tool in declined areas like harbours or old industrial sites, these kinds of entertainment facilities could be found in non-integrated locations like in the suburban sprawl as well as in inner city areas.

Especially the so-called Urban Entertainment Centers have been developed everywhere with appearances like theme parks, sport arenas, indoor leisure sites, center parcs, multiplex cinemas or musical theatres. These centres, often dedicated to a special theme, combine different leisure functions with retail trade and entertainment. Because of their huge size, their growing number and their needful catchment area their spatial impacts are immense. So it is necessary for planners and politicians to think about connected issues like the role within the city structure, traffic and economic impacts to existing structures of retail trade and leisure functions. To understand this development the market engine behind it should be described. In which way is the whole sector changed; influenced by global processes, mass production of culture and so on? Is the production of culture also on the way to be transformed from a public to a private produced good?

But how could planners or politicians locally react to this development? Are they prepared for negotiation with international operating developers and with the global players of the entertainment industry? Or is it possible to use these new kinds of facilities as a useful measure in the urban development?

3 Entertainment Market Changes

3.1 Determinants of the Leisure Behaviour

Working Time and Leisure Time

Leisure time is supposed to be the remaining time for activities, which are not related to work and subsistence like eating and sleeping. Now when we have a closer look to the relation of working time and leisure time in their historical development and the present situation we recognise a decline of working time in favour of an expansion of leisure time in wide parts if not in all in the developed world. Since the industrial revolution the number of working hours decreased in the U.S. and in Europe.

This development lasts with an increasing pace into the present time with an small exception of the U.S. When the average German worker had to work 2,000 hours in 1970, today she or he works approximately only 1,600 hours. Simultaneously the time spent for leisure activities has expanded. The estimated apportionment of leisure hours per day increased in the U.S. from 7.2 in 1970 to 9.5 in 2000.1

At the same time our society is getting older. Especially the group of pensioners is increasing. This group is in a special way very interesting for the leisure time industry, because almost their whole time could be also named as leisure time.

Societal Developments

The gain of prosperity during this century also caused a value change within the society. New personal life goals have developed. According to the German researcher Opaschowski the change within the society is characterized by five patterns of values: hedonism, social orientation, individualism, performance orientation and ownership orientation. The people in the western world are willing to enjoy their own lives. More and more parts of the lifetime are dedicated to leisure. So there are strong developments to the so-called fun Urban Entertainment Center society. People are much more materialistically oriented. The self-realisation through consumption stays in the foreground.2

Technological Developments

One of the most important aspects of the development of the entertainment industry is the ability of offering of media as a consumable good. It started with the outspread of the audiovisual media like radio and TV. Today the exposure with information through media is very essential in human lives. Especially the Internet opens up completely new opportunities as a source of information and media consumption. Exemplary is the commercialisation of music through the Internet by using the mp-3 data format. The “magic word” is called “Infotainment” as mixture of entertainment and information. But also new high tech inventions like digital date transmission, cinema sound systems and an infinite list of more, have changed the entertainment market.

Demand Consequences

Of course all demographic, time use, societal and technological changes have strong impacts on the shaping out of the behaviour of entertainment consumer. It is remarkable that the demands for leisure time activities have strongly diversified. This is caused on the one side by the individualised society in which the particular person has complete different expectations of the formation of their leisure time. On the other hand the new offers possible through technical inventions are providing a much wider spectre of leisure time activities.

The result is that the average households spend money in an increasing amount in the formation of their leisure time like the development in Germany illustrates: The average private expenditures per month expanded from 3,000 SEK in 1990 to over 4,500 SEK in the year 2000. So the amount stepped up by 50% within a decade.3

3.2 Market Determinants

Globalisation processes

Technological change and deregulation caused a disproportionate growth of the international media and entertainment sector. Like in other branches, the entertainment industry is now characterised as a global concentration processes through fusions and take-overs. Especially in the Global Cities4, like New York or Tokyo the concentration of activities like headquarters or Co- operate Image Centers at representative locations like the Times Square or the Ginza is recognizable.

So today investors, developers as well as operators of entertainment facilities are in a growing number international companies, like the Sony Company as the biggest operator of multiplex cinemas or Walt Disney as the owner of theme parks. They are profiting from the value of their intellectual ownership and the brand identity so that their profits exceed the one of local investors.5

Changed distribution structures

Close connected to globalisation processes is the development of changed distribution and organisation systems. Today international franchiser chains have taken place especially in the service sector like the entertainment branch. So there exist a close co-operation between the international operating franchiser and the local franchisee, which bought a license to reproduce the franchisers system.6

But other stakeholders in the “production” of entertainment are also international organised. For instance the financing system of Urban Entertainment Centers is separated in investor, developer and finally the operator. The economic advantage is a sharing of project risks, what is especially important at huge projects like UECs. But the shifting of economic risks to different stakeholders is finally only at the public expense in the form of the municipality.

Privatisation of Culture and Leisure

Culture and leisure could be divided into the traditional high-subsidised culture like theatres, museums and operas and the sector of the mass and mass-media culture provided on a culture market, at least into public and private produced culture.7

The difference between both is two-sided:

One the one hand high culture is not profitable because of its main focus on the content. The high quality is expensive, so it has to be subsidised. Furthermore it costs lots of public especially municipal money to balance the deficits.

One the other hand the private sector is much more able to produce cultural and entertainment goods because they are of course profit oriented. But the cheaper providing of the good "culture" is only possible at the expense of the quality or content.

But nowadays facing low public budgets, the public authorities withdraw from their engagement in the cultural sector. Because of decreasing culture budgets public facilities like youth clubs, public theatres and cinemas as well as operas are closing. Simultaneously the deficit should be substituted by private provided culture. Finally this process of privatisation of culture and entertainment means a qualitative lost of urban culture towards mass consumption when for instance the commercial "Infotainment Center" should compensate the city library.


1 cf. Vogel, H. L.: Entertainment industry economics - a guide for financial analysis, 5th edition. Cambridge, 2001, p. 5 ff.

2 cf. Westdeutsche Immobilien Holding: Der Freizeitmarkt und seine Bedeutung für die Immobilienwirtschaft, 3rd edition, 1997, p. 8

3 Opaschowski, H. W.: Deutschland 2010, Hamburg, 1997

4 Sassen, S.: The Global City, New York, 1998

5 Braun, R.E.: Exploring the Urban Entertainment Universe, in: Urban Land, vol.4, no.8

6 Gámir, A., Méndez, R.: Business Networks and New Distribution Methods, in: International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Vol. 24.3, Oxford, 2000, p. 653 ff.

7 cf. Bomheuer, A.: Man hält auf Fassade, in: Alternative Kommunalpolitik, Berlin, 5/1997, p. 40 f.


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The Royal Institute of Technology – Spatial Planning
Urban Entertainment Centers Difficulties Economics



Title: Urban Entertainment Centers -  Difficulties and chances for urban development