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Digital Domain closes Florida studio, CEO resigns

September 07, 2012|By Richard Verrier
  • Jeff Bridges in "Tron: Legacy." Digital Domain created special effects for the movie.
Jeff Bridges in "Tron: Legacy." Digital Domain created special… (Disney Enterprises )

Digital Domain Media Group, the parent company of the Venice-based visual effects house, said Friday that it was laying off most of the 320 employees at its new animation studio in Port St. Lucie, Fla., and shutting down the facility.

The company also announced that Digitial Domain Chief Executive John Textor had resigned immediately.

Digital Domain, which created visual effects for such movies as "Titantic,"  the "Transformers" movies and "Tron: Legacy," said the moves were part of a "strategic realignment" to refocus the company on its core business of creating visual effects digital effects, CG animation and digital production for the entertainment and advertising industries.

The company said the actions were part of an ongoing effort to "reduce its overhead and restructure long-term debt." The company said it was attempting to secure new sources of financing to meet its cash flow needs and that it would be forced to seek bankruptcy protection if those efforts were unsuccessful.

Digital Domain's studios in California and Vancouver intend to continue operating without interruption, as will the newly created Digital Domain Institute based in West Palm Beach, Fla.

The company recently announced intentions to expand into the Middle East with plans to open a 150,000-square-foot production studio in Abu Dhabi in 2015. 

But the company has struggled financially. It posted a loss of $14.8 million in the first quarter, compared with a loss of $39.1 million a year earlier, while revenue in the quarter dropped 19% to $31 million. Executives cited higher costs from opening its new animation facility in Florida this year and having fewer major film projects.

Textor recently created a stir over remarks that he made about the company’s new animation and digital arts institute, an unusual public-private partnership with Florida State University. The project angered visual effects artists in Hollywood, who fear it will encourage students to work for free at Digital Domain's planned visual effects studio in West Palm Beach.

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