$75M Opportunity In The New Hollywood

75m opportunity in the new hollywood

While Hollywood has traditionally been the hub for film and television production, that prominence may be fading rapidly as production companies trying to meet the insatiable appetite of consumers for content across the increasing diversity of entertainment platforms look for safer and more cost-effective locations. Locations such as Atlanta have tried to lure production companies with film incentives and over-built/over-hyped studios but have fallen prey to the same disincentives as Hollywood: traffic congestion, crime and cost escalations.

One location that seems to have avoided these disincentives and gained prominence in the industry is Nashville, Tennessee. Known as “Music City U.S.A” as a result of its thriving music scene, Nashville may just have become the hot, new “go-to” destination for filmmakers and is fast gaining popularity among some as “Movie City U.S.A,” attracting filmmakers and talent from around the world who are drawn to its vibrant entertainment culture, artistic community and quality of life.

One company, Worldwide Stages, a soundstage and production campus just south of Nashville, seems set to capitalize on this transformation. The company aims to set a new standard in the entertainment production industry by offering unparalleled concierge service, convenience and safety.

“Worldwide Stages isn’t just providing the traditional soundstage environment for entertainment production companies,” said the company’s CEO Kelly Frey. “We are providing a comprehensive solution for the problems that entertainment production companies have had to deal with at other locations.”

Worldwide Stages has already hosted production companies such as Paramount Pictures (NASDAQ: PARA) and Amazon Studios and A-list talent across the full spectrum of feature film, TV broadcast and music industries (resulting in company credits in publications ranging from People to Forbes).

Worldwide Stages Announces Proposed $75 Million Stock Offering

In a recent announcement, Mr. Frey revealed that Worldwide Stages has taken a significant step forward by filing a proposed $75 million stock offering with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The offering, to be conducted under the Regulation A+ Tier 2 framework, allows even small retail investors to participate in investing in pre-public and private companies.

The net proceeds from this offering will play a crucial role in expanding the entertainment production capacity of Worldwide Stages with new sound stages and backlots. With plans to enhance their current 320,000 square foot/38-acre production campus, this expansion allows Worldwide Stages to accommodate production companies catering to consumers increasing demand for entertainment content. Worldwide Stages is poised to leverage this growth and make a significant impact in the industry and in the region.

An Opportunity To Be Involved In The Disruption Of The Entertainment Industry

Speaking on the recent development, Mr. Frey shared, “Imagine investing in a Hollywood-style studio complex when Hollywood was first becoming the movie capital of the world. We started with the concept of serving the hundreds of music touring artists, record companies, and entertainment production companies located here in Music City USA, and then were amazed at the massive influx of creative capital in the entertainment production industry from historic feature film and TV production hubs such as Los Angeles, New York, and Atlanta. So we are excited today to begin the process for retail investors to invest in a company whose goal is to disrupt and revolutionize the entertainment production industry. We do something different, something special at Worldwide Stages. And invariably, the first words we hear from production executives when they walk into Worldwide Stages is ‘WOW, we never imagined production facilities like this existed.’ ”

Worldwide Stages Could Bring New Hollywood To The Next Level Of Production Quality

The company’s campus is already well-equipped to support Nashville’s growing production industry, offering multiple state-of-the-art soundstages, complemented by expansive green rooms and production suites. Additionally, their private 70-seat theater is ideal for screening dailies or hosting intimate performances. The grand lobbies and atriums are perfect for industry events. This makes the facility ideal not only for entertainment production, but also for pre-production and post-production needs.

The facility also has over 1,000 parking spaces and is situated on over 38 acres of secure and picturesque rolling countryside just south of Nashville. Worldwide Stages further solidifies Nashville's position as an important city in the entertainment industry, attracting filmmakers and talent from all over the world who seek the city's thriving entertainment culture and the exceptional services provided by Worldwide Stages.

“As the film industry is starting to ramp up production and fully recover from the pandemic’s impact and prepare for the surge in production work that will result after the current WGA writers’ strike is resolved,” said Mr. Frey, “there will be an even greater need of big production companies for new entertainment hot spots like Nashville and Worldwide Stages.”

Whether it's Music City, Movie City or The New Hollywood, Nashville seems poised to make a huge impact in the entertainment production industry and production campuses like Worldwide Stages look set to be the beneficiaries.

Credit Ratings to CICA Life Insurance Company of America

credit ratings to cica life insurance company of america

AM Best has assigned a Financial Strength Rating of B++ (Good) and a Long-Term Issuer Credit Rating of “bbb+” (Good) to CICA Life Insurance Company of America (CICA). CICA is headquartered in Austin, TX. The outlook assigned to these Credit Ratings (ratings) is stable.

The ratings reflect CICA’s balance sheet strength, which AM Best assesses as very strong, as well as its adequate operating performance, limited business profile and appropriate enterprise risk management (ERM).

The very strong balance sheet strength assessment reflects the company’s strongest level of risk-adjusted capitalization, as measured by Best’s Capital Adequacy Ratio (BCAR), on a pro forma basis with parental backing from the publicly traded parent, Citizens, Inc. [NYSE: CIA]. AM Best expects CICA’s risk-adjusted capitalization to remain at the strongest level; however, BCAR is projected to decline modestly primarily due to statutory expense strain from increasing new business sales and infrastructure investments to support future growth plans.

CICA has a low dependence on reinsurance as most new business is retained by the company. The company also has access to capital via Federal Home Loan Bank lending, various lines of credit, as well as parental liquidity and capital markets channels.

Partially offsetting these factors is CICA’s limited business profile, which reflects execution risk pertaining to the business growth plan being pursued. The company has expanded nationally yet premium concentration exists among the top five states where it writes business. While AM Best expects significant premium growth in the coming years, CICA’s bottom-line performance on a statutory basis is projected to be negative until it can achieve scale and earnings generated from in-force business are able to offset new business strain.

The stable outlooks reflect AM Best’s expectation that over the intermediate term, the company will maintain a very strong balance sheet strength assessment, supported by additional initiatives that will further leverage the parent company’s ERM framework. AM Best will continue to monitor CICA’s progress in executing its business plan as well as its impact on operating performance and surplus.

Wearables Market Is Forecast to Rebound in 2023

wearables market is forecast to rebound in 2023

After declining for the first time ever in 2022, worldwide shipments of wearable devices are forecast to rebound in 2023, reaching a total of 504.1 million units, according to new data from the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker. This represents 2.4% year-over-year growth, driven by sustained demand for the most popular products –earwear and smartwatches – while other products hold steady. Looking ahead, IDC expects the market will see several years of single-digit growth with shipments reaching 629.4 million units in 2027 and resulting in a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.0%.

Earwear will remain the largest product category throughout the forecast as new users seek out their first set and current users upgrade from devices purchased in 2020 and 2021, when earwear shipments reached their peak. Smartwatches will experience market-beating growth as users transition from wristbands to smartwatches and, in some cases, from basic smartwatches to advanced smartwatches. Despite downward pressure from smartwatches, wristbands are not expected to disappear from the market as these devices will continue to appeal to users seeking simpler solutions. Meanwhile, all other wearable categories – including clothing, rings, glasses that do not feature augmented or virtual reality, and others – will trend up and to the right albeit from a much smaller base.

"Despite the ongoing challenges in the macroeconomy, demand for wearables will push the market back into growth mode," said Ramon T. Llamas, research director with IDC's Wearables team. "We still anticipate new devices to come out later this year and these will coincide with replacement purchases for those who acquired a new device several years ago. This sets up a virtuous cycle for future purchases in the coming years resulting in continued growth for the overall market."

"And while replacements will be a big driver for mature markets such as North America and Europe, emerging markets are expected to drive continuous growth as well though many of these consumers are expected to be first time buyers," said Jitesh Ubrani, research manager for IDC Mobility and Consumer Device Trackers. "India has already surpassed the United States and China in terms of market size and will remain the largest market going forward thanks to the breadth of low-cost yet feature-rich devices from local vendors. Aside from India, other Asian countries along with Middle East and Africa will lead in terms of shipment growth while China and the USA will remain the second and third largest markets, respectively."

Amtrak Applies for Federal Grants

amtrak applies for federal grants

Amtrak has submitted applications for approximately $716 million in Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) funding for 16 proposed projects around the country that would improve Long Distance reliability, reduce travel times and expand service.

"Amtrak's Long Distance routes are vital mobility and economic links for communities around the country and we're continually working to enhance them," said Amtrak Board Chair Tony Coscia. "These grant applications reiterate our commitment to improving service for all Amtrak customers, from small, rural towns to major metropolitan areas."

The applications were submitted through two FRA programs funded by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), including the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail Program funding opportunity for projects outside the Northeast Corridor and the Corridor Identification and Development Program (Corridor ID Program).

Example Long Distance projects include:

Multiple Cardinal and Sunset Limited service improvements

Increase service to operate daily – up from 3x/week currently (Corridor ID Program)

Increase Cardinal train speeds and reduce travel times between Indianapolis and Dyer, Ind.

Sunset Limited return to Phoenix

Southwest Chief signal modernization between Colorado and New Mexico

Empire Builder rail enhancements in Montana

I-20 Crescent service extension from Mississippi through Louisiana to Texas

Construction of new Crystal City station that would add service to Arlington, Va.

In addition to these Long Distance grant applications submitted in conjunction with various partners, Amtrak also applied for several grants to improve Northeast Corridor and State Supported routes and provided letters of support for 83 projects outside the Northeast Corridor submitted by others.

For more than 50 years, Amtrak has connected America and modernized train travel. Offering a safe, environmentally efficient way to reach more than 500 destinations across 46 states and parts of Canada, Amtrak provides travelers with an experience that sets a new standard. Book travel, check train status, access your eTicket and more through the Amtrak app. Learn more at Amtrak.com and connect with us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Amtrak is leading a new era of passenger rail, investing in modern trains, enhanced stations, new tunnels and bridges, and other critical infrastructure upgrades. We're enhancing the customer experience across the country, improving safety and reliability, driving economic development, reducing trip times, expanding capacity, advancing accessibility and promoting a more sustainable future.