Sony Pictures Imageworks, one of Hollywood's leading visual effects companies, has decided to move more than 100 jobs from Culver City to New Mexico.
Imageworks will open a 100,000-square-foot satellite facility by next spring within Albuquerque Studios, a new production studio near the city's airport. Sony executives and New Mexico officials confirmed the move Wednesday in advance of a formal announcement expected today.
"This is a tremendous day for entertainment production in New Mexico," Gov. Bill Richardson said. "We are so pleased to have Sony Imageworks here."
The bulk of Sony Imageworks' operation will remain in Culver City. But opening the New Mexico facility will allow it to substantially cut costs amid heightened competition from rivals in Canada, England and other countries that offer production incentives that are unavailable in California.
New Mexico provides a combined 25% rebate on taxable production and post-production expenses. The state has lured scores of film and TV productions from Los Angeles in recent years and is now targeting soundstage and post-production companies.
"New Mexico offers a combination of quality of life plus economic advantages that will help us as a company to manage both our cost and expand our capacity," Imageworks President Tim Sarnoff said.
The Sony facility would eventually employ up to 300 digital artists, about a third of Imageworks' current workforce. Sony will lease the space, which will be about half the size of the Culver City operation, now at full capacity.
Located within a planned 9,000-acre development called Mesa del Sol, Albuquerque Studios is owned by Pacifica Ventures, a Santa Monica developer.
A unit of Sony Pictures Entertainment, Imageworks was launched 15 years ago to create visual effects and character animation. Its digital artists have worked on such projects as "Spider-Man 3" and "Surf's Up," an animated movie to be released next month.