You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Manex out of ‘Matrix’ loop

Firm pursuing legal means for piece of project

This article was updated on March 15, 2001.

Despite winning an Oscar for its visuals in “The Matrix,” Manex Entertainment needs a kung-fu fighting superhero to win any chance of working on Warner Bros.’ upcoming sequels for the film.

Recent financial woes at Manex have prompted “Matrix” producers EON Enterprises and Village Roadshow not to award a $30 million contract to Manex’s visual f/x arm, opting instead for ESC Entertainment, a new facility founded by members of the Manex team that created the shots and technology for the first pic. Warner Bros. is distribbing the sequels beginning next year.

Manex, which had already done extensive pre-production work on the two sequels, is pursuing legal options to guarantee itself some part of the project.

Losing “Matrix” last week to ESC Entertainment, which only officially formed on Friday, is a definite blow to Manex. The company has been struggling to climb out of debt by bidding for more f/x contracts, and by launching other profit-margin-building arms, including an Internet and feature production division under the Manex Entertainment moniker.

The privately held Manex had been trying to raise additional funding to finance its new divisions, using the “Matrix” sequels and a new senior management team to help attract investors.

Talent departure

However, its Manex Interactive division shuttered after Christmas, and Manex has watched the departure of high-level execs, including its chief technology officer and engineers George Borshukov, Kim Libreri and Dan Piponi. That group recently received an Academy of Arts and Sciences certificate for technical achievement for developing a popular virtual cinematography software system that creates computer-generated virtual sets for pics, musicvideos and commercials. They are said to have ankled to join ESC Entertainment.

Layoffs are now likely to hit Manex’s core f/x arm, and some of its execs have already begun calling other facilities to place Manex’s artists.

Although details regarding ESC (pronounced “escape”) Entertainment are scant, it is known that Tom Davila has been tapped prexy of the company, based only minutes from Manex’s soundstage facility, and is hiring away many of Manex’s digital artists.

The company hopes to branch out and bid on films from other studios once the “Matrix” sequels are completed. While Warner Bros. is distribbing the pics, EON and Village Roadshow are producing and awarded the sequels contract to ESC Entertainment based largely on the fact that ESC is made up of the team that worked on the first “Matrix” film.

Despite rumors to the contrary, Warner Bros. said it is not climbing back into the f/x game and is not an owner in the new studio.

Warner Bros. shut down its own inhouse f/x facility, Warner Digital Studios, in 1997, after roughly a year in operation. It was deemed too expensive, and the studio, like others, began awarding its films to other major and well-established f/x houses.

Joint efforts continue

The split between Warner Bros. and Manex is somewhat surprising, considering that the two companies are still working together on several pics, including “13 Ghosts” and “Queen of the Damned,” and Warners is shooting part of both “Matrix” sequels at Manex-operated Alameda Naval Station near San Francisco. WB is, however, renting the soundstages from the city instead of directly from Manex.

Despite the switch, there’s still a chance that Manex ultimately may handle some of the f/x work on the $100 million sequels.

Manex had already been paid an undisclosed amount for pre-production work on the films. That effort included the development of proprietary facial-scanning software that is owned by Manex. Legal issues could arise, should ESC Entertainment try to use that software.

Said Manex Entertainment CEO Gary Kutcher: “Through Thomas V. Girardi and the law firm of Girardi and Keefe, Manex is in direct communications with John Schulman, executive veep and general counsel for Warner Bros. Manex is working diligently to resolve our differences and expects a positive outcome for all parties.”

Manex most recently created visuals for “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” It also worked on “Almost Famous,” “American Beauty” and “Mission: Impossible 2.” It won its first Oscar for “What Dreams May Come.”

More Film

  • Glass Movie

    Box Office: 'Glass' Shines Overseas With $48.5 Million Weekend

    After autobots and aquatic kings have dominated foreign markets over the past few weeks, a different kind of hero has risen to the top of box office charts. M. Night Shyamalan’s “Glass” is the new champ overseas, pulling in $48.5 million from international territories. The supernatural thriller, a sequel to 2000’s “Unbreakable” and 2016’s “Split,” debuted [...]

  • Yalitza Aparicio as Cleo, Marco Graf

    'Roma' and 'The Favourite' Lead London Critics' Circle Winners

    After ruling the U.S. critics’ award circuit, “Roma” continued its dominance on the other side of the pond, as the London Film Critics’ Circle announced its winners tonight. A week after landing seven BAFTA nominations, Alfonso Cuarón’s Mexico City memory piece landed film of the year and director of the year honors from the group [...]

  • M. Night Shyamalan Should Stop Writing

    The Big Twist M. Night Shyamalan Needs: He Should Stop Writing His Own Scripts (Column)

    Quick, name the greatest film by each of the following directors: Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg, David Lean, Robert Altman, Roman Polanski, Kathryn Bigelow, Jonathan Demme. Answers will vary (mine would be: “Psycho,” “Saving Private Ryan,” “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Nashville,” “Chinatown,” “The Hurt Locker,” “The Silence of the Lambs”), but whatever your taste, odds are that [...]

  • Andy Vajna Dead: 'Rambo' Producer and

    Andy Vajna, 'Rambo' Producer, Dies at 74

    Andy Vajna, executive producer of several “Rambo” films as well as “Total Recall” and several “Terminator” movies, died Sunday in Budapest after a long illness. He was 74. The Hungarian National Film Fund confirmed his death, calling him a “dominant figure in the Hungarian and international film industry” who was responsible for the development of [...]

  • Glass trailer

    Box Office: 'Glass' Dominates MLK Weekend With $47 Million

    M. Night Shyamalan’s “Glass” topped box office charts during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, collecting $40 million over the weekend for a four-day sum of $47 million. If estimates hold, “Glass” will come in behind “American Sniper” ($107 million) and “Ride Along” ($48 million) as the third-best showing for both January and MLK holiday [...]

  • FICG Names Estrella Araiza As New

    Estrella Araiza To Head Up Guadalajara Intl Film Festival

    The Guadalajara Intl. Film Festival (FICG) has announced that Estrella Araiza, until now the festival’s head of industry and markets and director of the Guadalajara IntL. Film Festival in Los Angeles, has been promoted to the position of general director of the prominent Mexican festival. She replaces Ivan Trujillo, appointed director of TV UNAM. Araiza [...]

  • 'St. Bernard Syndicate' Review: A Quietly

    Film Review: 'St. Bernard Syndicate'

    John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan may have received major award nominations this season for their fine work in “Stan & Ollie,” but there’s arguably a superior Laurel & Hardy tribute act to be found in the droll Danish comedy “St. Bernard Syndicate.” As a pair of bumbling losers who turn an already dubious business [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content