With the acquisition of JRA, RWS Entertainment Group now delivers a complete array of design, production, performance and operation services to theme parks, attractions, cruise ships, zoos, aquariums, museums, theater venues, casinos, hotels and resorts, botanical gardens, visitor centers, port of call destinations, retail, real estate, municipalities, airports and corporate branded experiences
Top creative attraction and design firms approach acquisition from a position of expansive growth, with plans to open over a dozen permanent attractions and more than 400 live shows and experiences around the globe in 2022
New York, NY – November 16, 2021 – In a press conference today at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL, RWS Entertainment Group (RWS) Founder and Chief Executive Officer Ryan Stana, along with JRA Chief Executive Officer Keith James, announced the acquisition of JRA by RWS. This acquisition expands RWS’ capabilities and creates the world’s exclusive, full-service provider of visitor attractions and experiences.
For decades, both leaders have pioneered the attractions industry’s approach to entertaining and educating guests. Today, with headquarters in New York City, London, and now Cincinnati, this powerful combined RWS team of dreamers, designers, creators, and operators is set to provide endless experiences for theme parks, attractions, cruise ships, zoos, aquariums, museums, theater venues, casinos, hotels and resorts, botanical gardens, visitor centers, port of call destinations, retail and real estate, municipalities, airports and corporations around the world.
The acquisition comes at a time when both firms are busy preparing for record growth in all sectors, and RWS embarks on a holiday season filled with lights, décor, performances and openings on two continents.
“JRA is launching into one of the most prolific years in its history,” said Keith James. “Over a dozen JRA-designed attractions will open in 2022, with still more in development through 2025. Whether it’s children’s museums, science centers, indoor theme parks, outdoor theme parks, or branded attractions, JRA designs will bring smiles to visitors across the globe.”
“RWS Entertainment Group has also experienced unprecedented growth this year,” added Ryan Stana. “We’ve tripled our cruise ship activations, added a new Leased Experiences Division, new RWS Décor Products line and launched 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 and achieve even more in terms of guest satisfaction and return on investment.”
Since opening in 2003, RWS Entertainment Group has grown to include live performances and experiences at theme parks and resorts, on cruise ships and at major events. With the 2016 acquisition of Binder Casting, RWS expanded to include casting for television, commercials and Broadway. The company’s new Leased Experiences Division provides interactive exhibits, delivering well-known brand activations to even the smallest museums and gardens.
RWS operates attractions, too. Launched in 2020 out of a need to fill seasonal staffing positions left vacant by COVID-19, the RWS Fun Crew: Staffing Reimagined provides hospitality-minded, front-of-house personnel with the charisma and training to truly engage guests and raise their experience with moments of surprise and delight.
Over the past two decades, RWS has opened a unique career path for performers and technicians, giving them the opportunity to follow their dreams, discover a new passion and even make it to Broadway, TV or film. Filling roles for more than 4,500 performers and technicians year provides a memorable summer job, journey to success or the opportunity of a lifetime.
With the acquisition of JRA, the opportunities have become endless. The RWS Entertainment Group companies can truly take an idea from dream to design and realization to operation, covering every touchpoint in attraction development for both guests and the creative professionals that bring ideas to life.
“Selling JRA to RWS Entertainment Group is a natural evolution for the company, staff, and clients I love so much,” said Keith James who will remain as President of JRA. “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 (UC DAAP). 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.”
“I have admired Keith James for as long as I can remember,” said Ryan Stana. “To have the opportunity to work side-by-side with him, expanding his team’s creative vision to theater and cruise ships, and bringing live entertainment to even more venues throughout the world, is truly the realization of a dream. Thanks to the hard work, discipline and drive of both our teams, we are enjoying a record 2021 with even bigger projects and plans on deck for 2022 and beyond.”
Following the press conference, James and Stana celebrated a toast to James’ 50th anniversary in the entertainment industry along with a few hundred of Keith’s friends, colleagues, clients and vendors who were at the Orange County Convention Center for the annual IAAPA Expo. More information, photos and video are available at experiencerws.com/newsroom.
More information, photos and video are available online at experiencerws.com/newsroom.
Keith James, President
JRA – Part of RWS Entertainment Group
If you look closely at many of the largest theme parks around the world – including Kings Island, Universal Studios Florida, LEGOLAND and Ferrari World Abu Dhabi – you will find the handprint of Keith James.
Keith spent his early years at Kings Productions, where he learned all of the disciplines involved in shaping a modern theme park. After overseeing the operations of both Canada’s Wonderland and Australia’s Wonderland, Keith joined Universal Studios Florida as Vice President, Show and Ride Production. Keith joined JRA in 1992, acquiring full ownership of the company in 2008.
To support the growth of the industry, Keith has served on the Board of Directors of IAAPA, as well as President of the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA). In 2011, he received IAAPA’s Outstanding Service Award, and five years later was recognized with the TEA’s Buzz Price Thea Award for Lifetime Achievement. Keith’s professionalism, commitment to the industry, and kindness to others have strengthened his reputation as a true industry legend.
Ryan Stana, Founder and CEO
RWS Entertainment Group
Named one of the top fifty entrepreneurs in New York City, Ryan Stana is the Founder and CEO of Emmy® Award-winning RWS Entertainment Group. Together with its subsidiaries, RWS designs, fabricates, installs and operates custom entertainment, live events and branded experiences delivering more than 400 live productions each year.
An alumnus of the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music, Ryan was inspired by his entrepreneurial parents at an early age and in 2003 founded RWS Entertainment Group in the corner of his New York City apartment. Ryan’s dream was to delight families with accessible live entertainment, while providing a pathway to a career in the arts for aspiring performers and technicians. Over the past two decades, RWS has grown from providing live shows for theme parks like Cedar Point to creating custom entertainment, attractions and experiences for cruise ships, resorts and the world’s top brands. RWS operates the largest live production facility in New York City which includes 56,000 sq. ft. of office space, a rehearsal studio complex and performer housing.
Annually, RWS supplies over 4,500 seasonal performers and technicians for the attractions and leisure industry. RWS acquired Binder Casting in 2016 and now casts commercials for brands like Audi and the NBA, films such as Chicago and Dreamgirls and stage performers for the Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes and Broadway’s The Lion King, allowing the performers who get their start with RWS in theme parks, a potential career trajectory to Broadway and film.
With deep gratitude for those that encouraged and inspired him, Stana remains active in the arts community serving on the Board of Directors for the Broadway Dreams Foundation and as a Trustee to Point Park University. Stana also supports numerous industry and educational awards, grants and scholarships including the Esther M. Kocevar Scholarship which is awarded annually to a Westmoreland County (Ryan’s hometown) student with a history and interest in entertainment and performing arts. The scholarship is named for Ryan’s Grandmother, the late Esther M. Kocevar, who was supportive of Ryan in all his endeavors.
Ryan’s professional commitment to the entertainment industry is evident through his involvement in the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) and Seatrade Cruise Global where Ryan regularly volunteers his time conducting seminars, speaking at international conferences and serving on committees. Due to Ryan’s extensive expertise in all aspects of the entertainment industry, he is regularly quoted in top-tier publications, including The Wall Street Journal.
Ryan’s values of Dedication, Trust, Innovation, Collaboration, Connection, Creativity and Fun drive the daily operations of the company and its team members. Numerous awards including the Inaugural Notable LGBTQ Executive (Crain’s Magazine) and Seatrade Cruise News 20 under 40 remind Ryan that his hard work and passion are more than just a career. He has the ability and the responsibility to use his resources to inspire every artist to follow their dream.