×

Sony Imageworks Shifting Staff From L.A. to Vancouver; Layoffs Feared

Visual effects division cutting costs; employees expect bad news

In a cost cutting move, Sony Pictures Imageworks is transferring a portion of the staff from its Los Angeles HQ to its studio in Vancouver, B.C.,  as employees in both locations are bracing for layoffs.

Sony declined to specify how many jobs would actually be relocated, but the number is likely around three dozen, mostly in software development, according to two insiders. The company is offering relocation expenses to the affected staff. Those who do not choose to relocate will likely lose their jobs.

“As part of this process, we are transitioning a percentage of our technology teams to our Vancouver, B.C. studio in order to provide greater support to our artist community and remain cost competitive,” Sony said in a statement issued exclusively to Variety. “Sony Pictures Imageworks is committed to our headquarters in Los Angeles and we have a healthy slate of projects through 2014 including Columbia Pictures’ The Amazing Spider-Man 2” and Warner Bros.’ “Edge of Tomorrow.”

Imageworks brass told the staff about the plans at a meeting at its Los Angeles headquarters at 4:00 PST Tuesday. 

An Imageworks employee who asked not to be named told Variety that staffers expect wider layoffs to come. Sony’s visual effects and animation studio has come under the microscope — along with other Sony divisions — as the company seeks to trim costs by $250 million. Bain & Co. was hired in Nov. 2013 to review all of Sony Entertainment. Sony’s statement that it is “committed” to its Culver City HQ is likely an effort to assuage concerns it might move most or all of its artists to Vancouver, as Digital Domain has said it will do.

Imageworks moved years ago from having a large permanent staff to a crew staffing model, where artists and technicians are hired on for the duration of a project, then let go. Therefore its staffing levels tend to fluctuate. It would be a simple matter for the company to wrap production on current projects and decline to staff up again. However a company spokesman indicated that in addition to the two titles mentioned in its statement, it does have other pictures on its slate.

Imageworks exclusively handles feature films, which puts it outside Sony Entertainment CEO’s plan to refocus the studio on television rather than features. When the unit launched, Imageworks’ business plan was to keep artists busy both on animation and visual effects, with animated features filling the gap between major vfx shows.

However Sony Pictures Animation’s releases such as “Surf’s Up” and “Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2” failed to be the big hits the studio had hoped for, so the animation side didn’t produce the necessary revenue to prop up visual effects, which is generally a low-margin business. Sony has no animated features in production now.

There has been a nascent movement to unionize animators at Imageworks as its staffers have become increasingly disenchanted with working conditions and the company’s personnel policies.

More Biz

  • Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith

    Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith Dies at 78

    Walt Disney Archives founder Dave Smith, the historian who spent 40 years cataloging and preserving the company’s legacy of entertainment and innovation, died Friday in Burbank, Calif. He was 78. Smith served as Disney’s chief archivist from 1970 to 2010. He was named a Disney Legend in 2007 and served as a consultant to the [...]

  • Colin Kaepernick Kneel

    Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid Reach Settlement With NFL

    Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid, two football players who alleged the National Football League colluded to oust them from the game after they started kneeling in protest of racial inequality during the playing of the national anthem, have reached a settlement in the matter, according to a statement from the sports organization and lawyers representing [...]

  • R. Kelly

    R. Kelly Could Be in ‘Big Trouble’ Over Alleged New Sex Tape, Attorney Says

    Strong allegations of sexual misconduct have followed R. Kelly for 25 years, but the singer has always managed to slip free. Yet reports that a videotape of him sexually assaulting an underage girl, combined with the outcry surrounding the Lifetime documentary “Surviving R. Kelly,” means that public sentiment, at the very least, is definitely not [...]

  • Christian Bale as Dick Cheney in

    New Media Residuals and Feature Films Contribute to Spike in Writers' Pay

    The outlook for members of the Writers Guild of America has brightened — even amid pervasive uncertainty in the entertainment industry. According to the most recent report to WGA West members, earnings surged 2.8% to $1.41 billion in 2017, thanks mostly to gains in feature films and new-media residuals. Total covered earnings for WGA West [...]

  • Joe Dante Gremlins

    Hollywood Execs Seek Licensing Deals at the New York Toy Fair

    On Feb. 16 more than 30,000 studio executives, buyers and toy company reps will gather in Manhattan for the annual Toy Fair New York, all vying for market share and trying to snag the latest hot trend in a fast-changing industry. Those working the film side of the business will focus much of their attention [...]

  • Lady Gaga Bradley Cooper A Star

    Universal Music Group Fuels 11.3% Rise in Vivendi's 2018 Revenues

    Vivendi’s revenues were up 11.3% to €13.93 billion ($15.7 billion) in 2018, powered by Universal Music Group, which delivered such hits as the “A Star Is Born” soundtrack and Drake’s new album. UMG’s revenues climbed by 10% to €6 billion ($6.8 billion) compared to 2017. On top of the “A Star Is Born” soundtrack, the [...]

  • The Blacklist 100th Episode

    'The Blacklist' EP Sues for Wrongful Termination

    A former executive producer of the NBC show “The Blacklist” has filed suit against Sony, alleging he was fired after being wrongfully blamed for a workplace scuffle. Michael Watkins is a veteran TV director and cinematographer. He was an executive producer for several seasons of “The Blacklist,” the NBC crime show starring James Spader. According [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content