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Disney gambles on Avatar theme park, 8 years after hit movie

Associated Press logo Associated Press 5/9/2017 By MAE ANDERSON, AP Technology Writer
FILE - This Saturday, April 29, 2017, file photo, shows a Na'vi in a science lab while in the queue for the Avatar Flight of Passage ride at Pandora-World of Avatar land attraction in Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. You may not have thought much about the movie “Avatar” or its dazzling 3-D effects over the past eight years, but Disney sure has. And the Magic Kingdom is wagering a reported half-billion dollars that millions of people will line up for a new theme park based on the movie’s bioluminescent world of Pandora. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File) © The Associated Press FILE - This Saturday, April 29, 2017, file photo, shows a Na'vi in a science lab while in the queue for the Avatar Flight of Passage ride at Pandora-World of Avatar land attraction in Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. You may not have thought much about the movie “Avatar” or its dazzling 3-D effects over the past eight years, but Disney sure has. And the Magic Kingdom is wagering a reported half-billion dollars that millions of people will line up for a new theme park based on the movie’s bioluminescent world of Pandora. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Disney has wagered a reported $500 million that people will line up for a new theme-park attraction based on the 2009 movie "Avatar," which has largely faded from pop-culture consciousness.

FILE - In this Saturday, April 29, 2017, file photo, landscaping consisting of real Earth plant species mixed with sculpted Pandora flora surrounds a pond at the Pandora-World of Avatar land attraction in Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. You may not have thought much about the movie “Avatar” or its dazzling 3-D effects over the past eight years, but Disney sure has. And the Magic Kingdom is wagering a reported half-billion dollars that millions of people will line up for a new theme park based on the movie’s bioluminescent world of Pandora. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this Saturday, April 29, 2017, file photo, landscaping consisting of real Earth plant species mixed with sculpted Pandora flora surrounds a pond at the Pandora-World of Avatar land attraction in Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. You may not have thought much about the movie “Avatar” or its dazzling 3-D effects over the past eight years, but Disney sure has. And the Magic Kingdom is wagering a reported half-billion dollars that millions of people will line up for a new theme park based on the movie’s bioluminescent world of Pandora. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

The new park, based on the movie's bioluminescent world of Pandora, represents a major gamble, even by Disney standards. Disney is racing to catch up with rival Universal Studios, whose hit Harry Potter park opened in 2010.

The "Avatar" attraction, formally known as "Pandora - World of Avatar," opens May 27 at Disney's Animal Kingdom park in Florida. But there won't be an "Avatar" sequel until at least 2020.

Disney wants to prove it can also turn its newer cultural properties, which include "Star Wars" and the Marvel superhero franchise, into popular park attractions.

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