New Frontier for VeggieTale Creators in New Headquarters

( [email protected] ) Jul 21, 2004 01:25 AM EDT

Residents in Franklin, Tennessee remark that family-entertainment companies seeking new opportunities will start migrating to their hometown.

Recently, Big Idea Productions, creator of VeggieTales, has moved its headquarters from Chicago to Franklin, Tenn., near Nashville, and observers predict more family oriented entertainment companies will follow.

The city of Franklin has developed into a "Christian" Hollywood of the eastern states, serving as one of the nation's major hubs for recording, publishing, management and distribution companies involved in family oriented entertainment enterprises, according to the reports of the governor's office. In general, corporations targeting family audiences garner nearly $1 billion in revenues per year. The growth is still expected to continue.

Upon the producers' arrival, the city held a welcoming party for the creators and even Phil Bredesen, Tennessee's governor, participated at the event on July 14 at Big Idea's new home. The stars of the film, Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber, were officially named "citizens" of Tennessee by the governor.

"Today's announcement is a testament to what can happen when we all work together -- state and local governments, as well as private interests -- to make something positive and exciting happen in our state," Bredesen said. "Big Idea's decision to relocate its corporate headquarters to Tennessee, where it began, is reflective of a growing interest in developing family entertainment in the Franklin area. Big Idea's move here is sure to spark additional entertainment investment in this community and its workforce."

The new headquarters in which Big Idea resides is the 12,000 square feet newly redesigned space, which was a former stove production facility listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There, the companies' executive, production and creative teams will reside near Nashville's big distribution partners, Word and EMI.

Currently, the company sells around 5 million home video products a year and a million albums, generating an estimated $40 million to $50 million. Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie, Big Idea's first feature film, was in the top 10 at the box office for three consecutive weeks grossing $25 million in the year 2002.

Under a new managing environment, the company's producers express new hopes.

"Big Idea is thrilled to call Tennessee home," said Terry Pefanis, chief operating officer at Big Idea, Inc. "This vibrant area of the country is not only rich in culture and hospitality, it is also the center of the Christian entertainment and country music industries. It is the ideal place for Big Idea and VeggieTales to grow and prosper."

Pefanis told The Tennessean newspaper that operational costs of the production group are relatively lower compared to the previous Chicago headquarters. Cost of living for employees is lower, the tax environment for both individuals and corporations is more favorable, traffic isn't as bad and the airport isn't as crowded in Nashville.