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Rhythm & Hues cues feature biz

Company hires Duran to head development

Visual effects studio Rhythm & Hues has entered the feature development business and is expanding further into Asia to prepare for production on an all-CG feature.

Company has hired Venecia Duran, formerly of Vanguard, as its director of development, and is accelerating plans to open a facility in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

R&H’s development department is already taking script submissions and hopes to announce a feature co-production within a few months.

“We’re looking ideally for four-quadrant family films, though we have a few projects in development that are a little more adult,” Duran said.

R&H’s development slate includes both “blended cinema” projects, combining live-action and animated characters, and fully CG animated projects.

Lee Berger, prexy of R&H’s film division, told Daily Variety that the company is ready to make and co-own a fully CG feature.

“We have a very robust pipeline. We are doing eight films here, and we can do more than that down the road. We’re trying to expand not willy-nilly but shrewdly and methodically.”

Company has already maxed out its Culver City HQ, which boasts 735 employees. It has two India facilities, which employ 280 between them.

As it did in India, R&H will build the Kuala Lumpur facility from the ground up rather than acquire an existing operation. Artists will be trained at the India facilities, and managers from California will rotate through the other three shops.

The India and Kuala Lumpur facilities will each eventually employ 200 people and will work on the same projects as the Culver City center. Berger aims to have the Kuala Lumpur facility online before year’s end.

R&H is working on “Land of the Lost,” “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian,” They Came From Upstairs,” “Cirque du Freak, “Fast and Furious” and “State of Play,” and it is in negotiations to take on the “Alvin and the Chipmunks” sequel.

The move to Kuala Lumpur also signals a possible future expansion for R&H.

“Down the road we’re looking at China for a venue. Should we train Chinese technical directors in Malaysia, that would facilitate moving into China,” Berger said.