The business of fun and games is translating into big money in China for global builders of theme parks and museums that cater to newly-affluent Chinese with a growing taste for world-class entertainment.
In the last year alone, China has opened at least five major theme parks, whose state-of-the-art roller coasters and other rides contrast sharply with an older generation of parks filled with rusting Ferris wheels, creaky bumper cars and algae-infested water rides.
Britain's Madame Tussauds opened its first China-based trademark wax museum in Shanghai in May, and US-based Ripley Entertainment hopes to open one of its signature "Believe It or Not!" museums on the mainland within a year. Not to be outdone, the northern city of Tianjin said in May it would build a £341 million Paramount theme park, a chain owned by US theme park giant Cedar Fair.
But China's true entry onto the global entertainment stage could come soon as Shanghai edges toward plans for a first-ever mainland Disneyland, after the Walt Disney confirmed last month it was in late-stage talks to build such a park.
Theme parks can be lucrative not only for operators but for builders of rides that can cost up to £5.4 million for a single roller coaster or other major attraction.
Many of those ride-builders were present and showing off their attractions at the IAAPA Asian Expo 2006, the industry's biggest show in Asia that made its China debut last week in Shanghai.
"The local governments and local investors are seeing you can make money with a theme park in China. It's a profitable business," said Sascha Czibulka, representing global amusement company Intamin Transportation Ltd. at the show.
The Swiss powerhouse, whose clients include Disney, Cedar Fair and USbased Six Flags, has scored a bumper crop of China orders in the last year, with plans to deliver eight rides costing millions each in 2006.
Despite its promise, China isn't all barrels of money for the world's top entertainers. Many complain of excessive bureaucracy and other issues - most notably piracy - that can delay new projects and rob them of business.
In a nation famous for its fake DVDs and knock-off designer goods, copy-cat amusement rides that sell for about half the price of originals are also becoming a major issue, said B.J. Frei, of Swiss ride maker Westech.
"The Chinese are very clever people, so they are copying our rides," he said. "They can make them for half the price. As a European manufacturer, we were not too happy to come to Shanghai because it's where they copy the most."
Bureaucracy can also be a major issue in China, where multimillion-dollar parks must get central government approval before any building can begin, said Peter van Bilsen, of Dutch firm Verkoma Rides Manufacturing BV, which runs two China factories to serve its Asia clients.
"It's difficult to get a deal with the government," said van Bilsen, who added that some 25 new parks were now in the planning stages nationwide.
Intamin's Czibulka said China's tight control over foreign currency could also be an obstacle.
"Everything has to be approved by Beijing," he said. "Even if a client has the funds (in local currency), that doesn't mean he'll be able to pay us."
Last, but not least, ticket prices that average 100-160 yuan (£6.80p to £11) for parks could prove an obstacle to big attendance in a nation where many people still earn less than £55 a month.
Despite the cost factor, developers remain convinced that millions of relatively wealthy Chinese will pay the big gate prices to pamper themselves and their kids, many of whom are a couple's sole child due to China's one-child policy.
Ripley Entertainment believes it will be able to charge 80 yuan per ticket (£5.40p) for admission to its planned "Believe It or Not!" museum in China, said President Bob Masterson.
"We've done some market research to show we could probably get that price," he said.