RENE MONORY FUTUROSCOPE

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PARIS-In less than a decade, Rene Monory has transformed a ridiculed idea for a high-tech theme park into an attraction generating more revenue than the Louvre, Eiffel Tower and Versailles combined.

Last year Futuroscope lured 2 million visitors, second only to Euro Disney's 9.5 million, and racked up $51.7 million in revenues. More importantly, it produced $4 million in profit while Euro Disney suffered huge losses.

Ten years ago, while representing his hometown of Poitiers in the French Parliament, Mr. Monory wanted to create more interest and jobs in his region. He imagined an amusement park featuring interactive entertainment, projections on a giant-screen, cinemas and other communications technologies so exciting that visitors would travel to his little-known town in central-western France.

Everyone, however, dismissed Poitiers as a backwater town-particularly with the multibillion-dollar Euro Disney under construction just about 200 miles away. With investors scarce, the regional government finally agreed to support the project and by the time it opened in 1987, had put in almost $80 million.

The unwavering faith of founder and President Mr. Monory proved itself from the day the park opened. That first year, 225,000 visitors came, and this year Futuroscope expects 3 million. The park's revenues have been even more spectacular: after raking in $1.3 million in 1987, Futuroscope built sales to $30.7 million in 1992, tacked on another 70% last year, to $51.7 million, and expects $86.2 million this year.

"I realized long ago that the explosion of communication technologies would revolutionize people's lives in business, learning and leisure," Mr. Monory says. "People want to be surprised, learn things they didn't know, feel new sensations, make new discoveries."

In addition to restaurants, souvenir and food stands, the park has 12 indoor attractions providing unusual passive and interactive visual, audio and sensory experiences. There are also no-to-low tech activities, ranging from video game pavilions to musical exhibitions to outdoor equipment.

The most popular Futuroscope attractions are the virtual-reality cinema pavilions that allow viewers to experience motion depicted on high-definition, giant screens through corresponding movements of their chairs.

One simulator/theater takes viewers on a journey over the region surrounding the park, with seat movement mimicking the mode of transportation (car, boat, plane) depicted on the 300-square meter screen. The Magic Carpet theater "transports" viewers using effects from floor, ceiling and wall screens.

Mr. Monory has attracted a number of corporate sponsors, including Philips, Eastman Kodak, Canon and France Telecom, and has put together an enticing package for visitors as well. Adult tickets cost $23-less than one-third Euro Disney's-and kids get in for $19.

Using Publicis in France, the Arta agency in Spain, and Euro RSCG in the U.K., Belgium and the Netherlands, Futuroscope spent $5.1 million on advertising last year, half outside France, telling prospective visitors why they should visit.

Next year the total will be increased to $8.6 million, with $5.1 million being spent in other European countries.

Mr. Monory-who in his "off hours" is president of the French Senate, the government's upper house of parliament-still is involved in all decision-making about how and where to advertise.

During the week, he stays in touch from Paris with his on-site team, on weekends, he drops in to check on operations.

"I think it motivates my collaborators," he says.

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