Theme park plan for BBC

Pearson studies feasibility of `EastEnders' studio attraction
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PEARSON, the media and tourism group, is conducting a feasibility study into building and operating a theme park for the BBC along the lines of Granada's Coronation Street attraction.

Pearson, which has two satellite television joint ventures with the BBC, is keen to expand its fast-growing visitor attractions subsidiary, the Tussauds group.

The aim would be to exploit the BBC's studios and unparalleled back catalogue of programmes, with Pearson injecting cash and expertise.

Pearson has examined a number of options, including a theme park based at BBC's Elstree studios in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire. EastEnders and Grange Hill are among the programmes considered suitable for a theme park. Programmes such as The Bill, made by Pearson's Thames Television subsidiary for the ITV network, could also be candidates for theming.

The BBC first considered plans for a theme park 18 months ago. Pearson was brought in late last year to conduct the feasibility study, which is due to be completed this month.

Granada last year attracted 780,000 visitors to its Granada studios tour. Visitors pay £11.99 to see the outside set of Coronation Street and for eight other shows and rides. Granada also makes money from the sale of souvenirs linked to its shows. Pearson tomorrow reports its 1994 results. Analysts expect pre-tax profits in the £250-£300m range, up from £208.6m last time. Profits will be boosted by the receipt of more than £50m from the sale of shares in BSkyB.

The Tussauds group attractions include its flagship Madame Tussaud's waxwork museum, Alton Towers and Chessington World of Adventures. It opens the Port Acentura theme park in Barcelona in May and is pushing to build a New York branch of Madame Tussaud's.

Pearson will also tomorrow unveil a new corporate image and logo, designed by the design agency Luxon-Carra. The aim is to differentiate the new Pearson from the old. Many assets have been discarded in the last few years, including the Chteau Latour vineyard, Royal Doulton china and the US oil services company, Camco. Pearson is slimmed down to the four legs of publishing, television, visitor attractions and investment banking.