Sony Pictures Imageworks to Move Headquarters to its Vancouver Operation
By Carolyn Giardina for The Hollywood Reporter
Sony Pictures Imageworks — well known as the lead VFX house for the Spider-Man franchise including The Amazing Spider-Man 2 — is moving its headquarters from Culver City to its Vancouver operation, meaning that all future Imageworks and Sony Picture Animation production will be handled entirely under one roof in British Columbia.
As part of its plans, the company said it intends to relocate to a new 74,000 square foot space during 2015, which would have capacity for up to 700 artists.
The decision underscores the VFX industry’s retreat from California to cities such as Vancouver that are attracting Hollywood productions with generous incentives. Imageworks, which initially opened its Vancouver base in Yaletown during 2010, has been steadily growing its work force in the incentive-friendly city, while shrinking its Los Angeles presence. Randy Lake, executive vp and general manager of Sony’s digital production services unit, told The Hollywood Reporter that it would not be immediately clear how many of the Culver City staffers will choose to consider relocation.
Having recently finished work on The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Warners’ Edge of Tomorrow, the Vancouver operation has a slate of upcoming projects including Disney’s Guardians of the Galaxy (Aug. 1), Columbia’s Pixels (May 2015), Rovio’s Angry Birds (July 2016), Sony Pictures Animation’s Hotel Transylvania 2 (September 2015) and the Untitled Smurfs movie (August 2016). It is also expected to continue its work on the Spider-Man franchise with The Amazing Spider-Man 3, which is slated for a June 10, 2016 release.
Last year, during the production of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, staff in Vancouver topped 350. That has since dropped but Lake expects it to reach that number again by January, as the company ramps up for the aforementioned Sony Pictures Animation features as well as one not-yet-disclosed project.
The new Vancouver space, which the company expects to open by next April, will have capacity for up to 700 artists in the downtown area’s Cadillac Fairview Pacific Centre. “It’s a big vote of confidence on behalf of the studio,” Lake said of Sony’s plans for the VFX business.
Sony Pictures Animation’s development team — an estimated 125 employees — are also expected to remain in Culver City, though animation production will be handled in Vancouver. Columbia’s The Interview, opening Oct. 10, is expected to be the last production to be completed in Culver City. (Following completion of its work on Spider-Man 2, Imageworks shut what was its third base, in Chennai, India.)
Like Imageworks, VFX houses Industrial Light + Magic, Digital Domain, MPC and others have opened Vancouver operations in recent years. “We initially [moved to Vancouver] to take advantage of tax incentives,” said Lake. “But we have had phenomenal success with great talent. It’s become a hub.”