Attractions industry news

17 Nov 2021

JRA becomes part of the RWS Entertainment Group

Experience design firm JRA has been acquired by live entertainment specialist RWS Entertainment Group. The news was revealed in a press conference today (16 November) at the IAAPA trade show in Orlando Florida.

CEOs Ryan Stana of RWS and Keith James of JRA announced the deal with an accompanying toast to celebrate James's 50th anniversary in the themed entertainment industry.

James said: “Selling JRA to RWS Entertainment Group is a natural evolution for the company, staff and clients I love so much.

"I could not be more thrilled that Ryan has invited our team to join with his as we embark on a shared, expanded vision for themed entertainment.

"With Ryan’s, support, enthusiasm and energy, I can continue to do the work that excites me, lead our amazing team in Cincinnati and stay engaged with the University of Cincinnati’s School of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning.”

James will remain as President of JRA.

The combined business will have global reach, with offices in London, New York and Cincinnati and will bring together a wide range of disciplines, from design and production to performance and contract operations.

Both firms report buoyant trade in 2021 and a full order book going forward.

James said: “JRA is launching into one of the most prolific years in its history, with over a dozen JRA-designed attractions opening in 2022 and still more in development through to 2025."

“RWS Entertainment Group has also experienced unprecedented growth this year,” added Stana. “We’ve trebled our cruise ship activations, added a new Leased Experiences Division, a new RWS Décor products line and launched a contract management arm – the RWS Fun Crew: Staffing Reimagined.

"Adding the design, project management and media production experience of the JRA team to the RWS portfolio allows our clients to dream even bigger.”

RWS, founded in 2003, specialises in creating live performances and experiences at theme parks and resorts, on cruise ships and at major events. The recently launched Leased Experiences Division creates interactive exhibits and delivers brand activations to attractions.

The company has been growing organically and by acquisition, having bought Binder Casting in 2016 and has expanded to deliver casting services for television, commercials and Broadway, filling roles for over 4,500 performers and technicians every year. It also delivers over 400 live performances each year.

"RWS can now truly take an idea from dream to design and realisation to operation, covering every touchpoint in attraction development for both guests and the creative professionals that bring ideas to life," said Stana.

“I've admired Keith James for as long as I can remember,” he continued. “To have the opportunity to work side-by-side with him, expanding his team’s creative vision to theatre and cruise ships, and bringing live entertainment to even more venues throughout the world, is truly the realisation of a dream."

The new group will work in a range of sectors, including children’s museums, science centers, indoor and outdoor theme parks and branded attractions, cruise ships, zoos, aquariums, theatres, casinos, hotels and resorts, botanical gardens, visitor centers, 'port of call' destinations, retail, real estate, municipalities and airports.

JRA was founded by Jack Rouse and Amy Merrell in 1987 as Jack Rouse Associates and acquired by Keith James in 2008.

James had studied under Rouse at the University of Cincinnati where he was a lecturer and joined the company as a partner in 1992.

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