Entertainment Industry

Category: digital domain

Reliance and Digital Domain partner to open new studios in U.K. and India

Hollywood is becoming even more reliant on one of India's biggest media companies.

Reliance MediaWorks, a division of the conglomerate Reliance ADA Group, said Monday that it has partnered with the Venice-based visual effects house Digital Domain Productions to open studios in London and Mumbai, underscoring the increasingly global nature of California's visual effects industry.

The new studios will provide a variety of post-production services for movies, TV shows and commercials. The facilities will be owned by Reliance, which has existing post-production facilities in London and Mumbai, and will be managed by Digital Domain, which recently handled visual effects work for "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" and "Thor." Financial terms were not disclosed.

The deal marks the latest entertainment industry investment by Reliance, which operates a chain of Indian theaters in the U.S. called Big Cinemas and an image processing center in Burbank, Lowry Digital, a film restoration business it acquired in 2008.

Reliance provided half the funding for Steven Spielberg's newly independent DreamWorks Studios after it split from parent Paramount Pictures and has business partnerships with production companies run by such high-profile industry figures as Tom Hanks, George Clooney, Brad Pitt and partners Ron Howard and Brian Grazer. In June, former Universal Pictures co-Chairman David Linde announced that his new independent film finance and production company would be backed by Reliance Entertainment.

The partnership will give Digital Domain, founded in 1993 by James Cameron and other investors, its first foray into India, where several other rivals such as Technicolor and Rhythm & Hues already have operations to take advantage of substantially lower labor costs there.  The U.K., which has a strong film tax credit, has lured a number of big movies in recent years and become a major hub for visual effects. Such competition has squeezed small to midsize California visual effects companies, several of which have gone out of business in recent years.

"Filmmaking has become a global enterprise,'' said Cliff Plumer, chief executive of Digital Domain Productions. "A partnership with Reliance MediaWorks will allow our clients to realize the benefits of a digital production pipeline that makes efficient use of resources and talent located around the world."

Digital Domain also has a visual effects studio in Vancouver, Canada, and has been expanding its 3-D conversion business. Last year it acquired In-Three Inc. in Westlake Village and moved most workers to Florida. Its Florida parent company recently announced plans to raise up to up to $115 million in an intial public stock offering this summer.

-- Richard Verrier

Photo from "Transformers: Dark of the Moon." Credit: Paramount Pictures.


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Digital Domain prepares to give IPO another shot

The parent company of Venice visual effects house Digital Domain is going public.

Digital Domain Media Group Inc. said in a regulatory filing that it plans to raise up to $115 million in an initial public offering.

The company said it expects to use proceeds from the stock offering to pay down down and finance its operations, which include a feature animation division in Port St. Lucie, Fla. and the Venice visual effects studio, which is partly owned by director Michael Bay and is known for its effects work on such movies as "Thor," "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" and the "Transformers" films. 

Digital Domain also has a visual effects studio in Vancouver, Canada, and has been expanding its 3-D conversion business. Last year it acquired In-Three Inc. in Westlake Village and moved most workers to Florida.

The IPO is expected to be held this summer.

Digital Domain's previous effort to launch an IPO, in 2007, sputtered when the planned offering failed to gain much traction among investors.

But in a recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Digital Domain said its business was brisk in thanks to growing consumer demand for visual effects. At a time when many smaller visual effects companies in California have been struggling, Digital Domain saw its revenue from visual effects climb to $101.9 million last year -- up 70% from 2009, according to its filing.

Executives at Digital Domain declined to comment.

Another local entertainment company, the 3-D technology supplier RealD Inc. of Beverly Hills, held a successful IPO last summer, raising about $200 million.


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-- Richard Verrier 

Digital Domain parent to buy and move In-Three's operations to Florida

Digital Domain, a leading visual effects house partly owned by director Michael Bay, is bulking up -- but not in California.

The parent company of the Venice-based studio said Thursday that it was acquiring Westlake Village-based In-Three Inc., and that it planned to move most of the 3-D conversion company's 70 employees to Florida.

Founded in 1999, In-Three has been a pioneer in the field of converting movies into 3-D, a business that has taken off after the success of James Cameron's blockbuster “Avatar.” Among other projects, In-Three worked on Tim Burton's “Alice in Wonderland.”

Company executives did not disclose the purchase price. They said most of In-Three's operation would be moved to Port St. Lucie, Fla., where Digital Domain already has a digital production studio.

“This partnership adds large-scale production to In-Three's world-class technologywhile creating new jobs in the state of Florida,'' said John Textor, chairman of Digital Domain.

Digital Domain has recieved tens of millions in state and local funding to operate its studio in Florida, where labor costs are lower than in California. Plans are in the works for a Digital Domain Institute in West Palm Beach, a four-year program in advanced digital media supported by Florida State University.

“I'd rather keep the jobs in California,” but Florida is “more economical than California, I'm sorry to say,'' said Cliff Plumer, Digital Domain's chief executive.

Digital Domain recently completed production on Walt Disney Studios' “Tron: Legacy.” It employs 500 people at its headquarters in Venice. Like other California visual effects companies, it faces rising competition from companies around the world that often benefit from lower labor costs or government tax credits. To better compete, Digital Domain opened a studio in Vancouver, Canada, earlier this year.

-- Richard Verrier

Photo: A scene from the movie "Alice in Wonderland," starring Johnny Depp. Credit: Disney Enterprises


Digital Domain, whose backers include Michael Bay, is opening a Florida branch

Digital Domain, the Venice-based visual effects house partly owned by director Michael Bay, is expanding -- outside of Southern California.

MICHAELBAY The company best known for creating digital effects for movies including "Transformers" and "Titanic" announced today that it would develop a digital production studio in Florida dedicated to producing animated movies and video games.

Digital Domain has long sought to transform itself from being a work-for-hire movie and commercial effects house into a full-blown production studio. The Academy Award-winning company had planned a initial public stock offering last year to help finance that conversion, but later scrapped the IPO after a tepid response from investors.

The Florida studio is being financed with a $50-million investment by Wyndcrest Holdings, a Florida-based technology investor whose principals acquired Digital Domain in 2006. The project also is supported by a grant from the state of Florida's Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development and various incentives administered by the city of Port St. Lucie and St. Lucie County.

"Developing original content has always been a key part of our strategy, and a natural extension of the artistic and creative talent that the company has developed over the last fifteen years,'' Digital Domain Chief Executive Cliff Plumer said in a statement.

The company also recently announced that it was opening a new visual effects studio in Vancouver, Canada, which offers film tax breaks to production companies.

-- Richard Verrier

Photo: Michael Bay on the set of "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen." Credit: Paramount Pictures


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