LOS ANGELES, JAN. 9 -- Columbia Pictures Entertainment Inc. said today its Japanese owners have approved development of "Sonyland" amusement parks to compete with Disney and Universal studios in the theme park business.

Details on cost, a construction timetable and location for the Sonyland theme park won't be available until the end of the year, said Columbia's Paul Schaeffer, an executive vice president who is heading the project.

"Columbia has been developing plans for a theme park or parks with a working name of Sonyland," Schaeffer said in a telephone interview from New York.

"We anticipate multiple locations, but none have been identified. The outlook has not been limited to Southern California, but Southern California is clearly being considered," Schaeffer said.

The Sonyland proposal comes against a background of a growing Japanese role in the American entertainment industry. Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. recently acquired MCA Inc., parent of Universal Studios, in a deal valued at about $7.4 billion.

Sonyland will unite characters, rides and exhibits employing Sony technology and hardware, he said. The park will draw its creative inspiration from the software of Columbia Pictures, Tri-Star Pictures, Colpix Television and CBS Records, which was renamed a week ago to Sony Music.

Schaeffer didn't rule out the thrill- and splash-ride staples of the amusement park business.

"We wouldn't rule out anything at this point, but we are not in the business {of} duplicating something that is in the other parks," he said.

Disney and Universal had no comment on the Sonyland proposal.

Director Steven Spielberg and his Amblin Entertainment may have a role in the Sonyland project. Spielberg is directing Tri-Star's upcoming "Hook."

Spielberg, however, is a creative consultant for the Universal Studios theme park in Florida, and Amblin is located on the Universal lot, making uncomfortable a Sonyland relationship.

The Sonyland announcement comes during lean times at Southern California theme parks. Attendance figures released last week showed a decline in visitors at the major parks in 1990. Disneyland, Universal Studios Tour and Sea World all had fewer visitors last year than in 1989.