This Long Beach Production Studio’s Bet on the Metaverse Just Paid Off

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is dot.LA's Editorial Fellow. Prior to that, she was an editorial intern at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

This Long Beach Production Studio’s Bet on the Metaverse Just Paid Off
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Thunder Studios bet big on the metaverse—and it’s now paying off.

The Long Beach-based production studio and Infinite Reality, the metaverse platform in which it was the lead investor, were acquired this week by Display Social, a social media network that pays creators for their original content. The deal will see Thunder Studios and Infinite Reality integrate their virtual production capabilities into Display’s creator network. Known for producing virtual live events, Thunder Studios notably utilized Infinite Reality’s platform to create a virtual Burning Man experience.


The acquisition is part of a larger foray into the metaverse for Display Social. In November, the company acquired an intellectual property patent from digital content platform LookWithUs.com that allowed it to expand its metaverse capabilities. Now, it has Thunder Studios’ 150,000-square-foot Long Beach facility at its disposal; the studio’s virtual production capabilities include an esports arena, a dedicated XR stage, and motion capture and volumetric stages—all of which allow Display to work with creators and entertainers looking to produce metaverse content.

“The metaverse is, in essence, the reinvention of television,” Thunder Studios CEO Rodric David told dot.LA. “It's the new TV, as we will go there to entertain and be entertained and interact and socialize. We recognize that it's also the convergence of the three primary behaviors that youth culture exhibits on a mobile device: gaming, entertainment, and social media.”

While the companies declined to disclose the financial specifics of the deal, Display co-founder and CEO John Acunto said it values the combined company at “over a billion dollars.” Acunto will continue to serve as CEO of Display while David will become its president. Though Display is based in Connecticut, the combined entities will have a significant presence in Los Angeles and New York.

Display prides itself on being creator-centric and promises creators a payout rate of up to 50% on ad revenues generated by their content. With the merger, Display can now provide those creators with a metaverse platform and an app enabling them to distribute content, engage with their fans, and build virtual stores.

“It's always live, it's always on,” Acunto said of the metaverse. “We believe fundamentally that being able to bring the best possible content to that live environment is super important.”

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Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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Inflation Reduction Act Officially Passes the Senate, Revamping Electric Vehicle Pricing

David Shultz

David Shultz is a freelance writer who lives in Santa Barbara, California. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside and Nautilus, among other publications.

The Capitol at Sunset
Courtesy of Mike Stoll via Unsplash

Over the weekend Senate Democrats officially passed the Inflation Reduction Act in what amounts to President Biden’s biggest legislative win so far. The bill includes a host of broad-spectrum economic policy changes and completely reworks the subsidies for electric vehicle purchases. The law still has to get through The House, but this should be a much smaller hurdle.

dot.LA covered the bill in depth as it neared the goal line at the end of July, and the final iteration doesn’t change much. To recap:

1.The rebate total stays $7,500 but is broken into two $3,750 chunks tied to how much of the car and its battery are made in the US.

2.The manufacturer caps are eliminated, meaning even EV companies that have sold more than 20,000 vehicles are once again eligible.

3.Rebates will now only apply to cars priced below $55,000 and trucks/SUVs below $80,000

With the new system placing a renewed emphasis on American manufacturing and assembly, the calculus of which vehicles cost how much is still being worked out, but the most comprehensive list I’ve seen has come from reddit user u/Mad691.

In addition to the EV rebate program, the bill also includes a number of economic incentives aimed at curbing emissions and accelerating the country’s transition to electric vehicles.

There’s $20 billion earmarked for the construction of new clean vehicle manufacturing facilities and $3 billion will go help electrify the USPS delivery fleet. Another $3 billion will go to electrifying the nation’s ports. Then there’s $1 billion for zero-emission trucks and buses.

Now that the bill is about to be codified into law, VC investment in the sector might heat up in response to the new money flowing in. “I do anticipate more climate funds standing up to invest in EV infrastructure,” says Taj Ahmad Eldridge, a partner at Include Ventures and the Director at CREST an ARES Foundation initiative with JFF/WRI that aims to provide training for people in the new green economy. “However, we do see funds being a little more thoughtful on diligence and taking their time to fund the right investment.”

The sentiment seems similar across Southern California. ChargeNet CEO and Co-Founder Tosh Dutt says the Inflation Reduction Act “super charges” the company’s effort to build infrastructure across the country.

“This investment accelerates the transition to renewable energy and gives companies like ChargeNet Stations the confidence to expand more rapidly, especially in underserved communities,” says Dutt.

For Rivian, the bill’s passage has left would-be customers in a sort of limbo. Because many of their models will exceed the $80,000 cap for trucks and SUVs after options, customers who’ve preordered are scrambling to sign buyers’ agreements to take advantage of the current EV rebate scheme which doesn’t include price caps. As I noted in the previous article, if you buy an EV before the bill is signed, you’re eligible for the current rebate system even if the vehicle isn’t delivered until 2023. Any existing contracts under the current system will remain valid.

With the legislation seemingly on the fast track to become law, it’s unclear whether or not Rivian will expedite the purchasing process to allow customers to sign the buyers’ agreement before the new rebate program becomes the law of the land. Tick tock!


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