The industry was buzzing about the relocation of the studio from its present home base in Culver City to Vancouver, Canada after the company confirmed the news as May came to a close.
Sony Pictures Imageworks is one of the largest visual effects studios in the US, having just released the latest Spider-Man movie, The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The work on that movie, however, was done in Vancouver.
The studio is moving into a 74,000-square-foot facility at the Pacific Centre in downtown Vancouver, expected to open in the spring of 2015. It will have room for approximately 700 employees. In the past several years, a number of high-profile US-based VFX studios have opened branches in Vancouver, including Sony in 2010. In 2012, the facility doubled its space there.
The Culver City facility will remain open and will work with LA-based clients. But how many employees will stay on there is uncertain.
Jason Dowdeswell will continue to lead Sony Pictures Imageworks’ operations in Vancouver as vice president of production operations, having joined the company in 2013.
In a statement issued by the studio, Randy Lake, executive vice president and general manager at Sony Pictures Digital Productions, said: “Vancouver has developed into a world-class center for visual effects and animation production. It offers an attractive lifestyle for artists in a robust business climate. Expanding our headquarters in Vancouver will allow us to deliver visual effects of the highest-caliber and value to our clients.”
Indeed, the area has attracted many in the VFX and animation realms. SIGGRAPH, the industry’s biggest conference and trade show, held its first exhibition outside the US in Vancouver in 2011. Due to the positive reception, the conference is being held there again this summer.
Not long after SIGGRAPH 2011, a partnership among some VFX practitioners resulted in a collaborative effort to share infrastructure in an attempt to make Vancouver into a globally competitive spot for visual effects.
The industry, especially in the US, has long been plagued with closures and bankruptcies, with 2013 a particularly dark year when Rhythm & Hues filed Chapter 11 right before accepting an Oscar for its work on Life of Pi. The US studios, more so those in California, have been handicapped without the advantage of government subsidies. Some states, such as Louisiana, are offering subsidies, but the larger hardship for California studios rests with counties and regions offering substantial money to local productions. Vancouver (in particular, British Columbia) is one of those areas offering an enticing tax credit for entertainment companies and productions.