VFX Shakeup: Prime Focus World, Double Negative to Merge

Prime Focus’ creative services subsidiary Prime Focus World and VFX house Double Negative have reached an agreement to merge, marking a major shift in the global visual effects landscape.

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Double Negative — headquartered in London and with a base in Singapore — is one of the leading VFX houses in the world and the go-to house for Christopher Nolan, who worked with the VFX house on his Batman films, doing the Oscar-winning VFX on Inception and upcoming Interstellar. When the deal with Prime Focus closes — which is expected to happen in the coming weeks — the combined VFX entity will operate under the name Double Negative, and continue to be led by Double Negative's managing director Alex Hope and CEO Matthew Holben.

The legal entity for the business will be Prime Focus World. Namit MalhotraPrime Focus founder and CEO of Prime Focus World, told The Hollywood Reporter that Prime Focus would hold roughly 80 percent of the shares in the business. Malhotra, Hope, Holben and others will form a management board.

In total, the combined business is expected to have roughly 4,000 employees, which in addition to the VFX unit, includes 3D conversion and animation businesses, which currently and will continue to operate under the Prime Focus World brand.

Prime Focus' VFX unit has bases in Mumbai, London, Los Angeles, Vancouver and China. Both Prime Focus and Double Negative recently completed VFX  work on Hercules, and Prime Focus' upcoming projects include Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, which is unique in that the VFX unit is also an investor in the production — a model Malhotra plans to continue to pursue.

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The 3D conversion arm is also working on Sin City, as well as Guardians of the Galaxy. The animation unit is creating Lego-themed TV series Legends of Chima.

It's no secret that the VFX business had been in an unstable period. A key reason for that is the impact from competitive production incentives. Malhotra noted that companies such as Rhythm & Hues and Digital Domain (both of which filed for bankruptcy and were acquired by new owners in recent years) "had built up huge costs in California, and had pressure from the studios that wanted to move to more favorable locations." He added that Prime Focus has been "proactive" about choosing where to grow bases.

Email: Carolyn.Giardina@THR.com
Twitter: @CGinLA