VFX Company Digital Domain Acquired by Sun Innovation

UPDATED: Ed Ulbrich steps down as CEO; Sun Innovation exec Daniel Seah will lead the company.
Courtesy of Universal Pictures
Digital Domain recently worked on the Tom Cruise sci-fi title, "Oblivion."

Digital Domain 3.0 has once again been sold, this time to Sun innovation, a Hong Kong-listed company. 

Sun Innovation has acquired Galloping Horse U.S., which owned a 70 percent  share of Digital Domain's business, for approximately $50.5 million. Reliance MediaWorks continues to own a 30 percent minority stake.

Digital Domain was acquired roughly 11 months ago by China’s Galloping Horse and India’s Reliance MediaWorks, after DD filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Last year, Galloping Horse and Reliance acquired the Digital Domain production business for $30.2 million.

With its acquisition of Digital Domain 3.0, Sun Innovation said it “intends to expand its reach, playing a significant role in the growing international feature film markets and developing new digital media experiences for consumers in entertainment, advertising, cultural and media environments worldwide.”

Ed Ulbrich -- who had been with DD since 1993, when it was founded by James Cameron, Scott Ross and Stan Winston -- has stepped down as CEO, a role he assumed last September at the time of last year’s changes. He plans to continue to work with DD as a creative consultant, and he will also continue as producer Enders’s Game, which DD is co-producing and Lionsgate/Summit is releasing domestically on November 1.

Ulbrich said it a released statement: “With the ownership having brought the company under Sun Innovation, a solid, significant public company, and Digital Domain 3.0 into its next phase, I am looking forward to returning to the creative side of the business to pursue producing full-time. I look forward to continuing a fruitful relationship with Digital Domain 3.0 as we move forward.”

Sun Innovation’s executive Daniel Seah has been named CEO at DD. Seah most recently served on the senior management team of Simsen International Financial Group, where he oversaw mergers, acquisitions and managed investor relations.

In addition to Ender’s Game, projects at DD include Fox’s X-Men: Days of Future Past; Disney’s Maleficent; and Black Sky, which incidentally was at Rhythm & Hues at the time that it filed for bankruptcy earlier this year, and it was subsequently pulled from R&H by Warner Bros.

DD -- which has bases in Los Angeles and Vancouver -- recently worked on projects including Iron Man 3, Oblivion, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, and Jack the Giant Slayer. In additional to VFX for features, the company works on commercials, games and also created the “virtual” Tupac that appeared at Coachella in 2012.

The bankruptcies of DD and R&H, as well as the struggles of other VFX companies, has placed huge amounts of attention on the VFX industry's troubled business model. Just this past week, that business model was a big topic at annual CG conference Siggraph, which wrapped on Thursday afternoon in Anaheim.

Also this week, India’s Crest Animation Studio was sinking while dismissing unpaid artists.