×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

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

  • Jussie Smollett

    Jussie Smollett Charged With Filing False Police Report

    “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett has been charged with filing a false police report, the Chicago police said Wednesday. “Detectives will make contact with his legal team to negotiate a reasonable surrender for his arrest,” police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said on Twitter. Smollett is due to appear in court for a bond hearing at 1:30 p.m. [...]

  • Coast Guard Lieutenant Hit List

    Coast Guard Lieutenant Targeted CNN, MSNBC Anchors and Democrats for Attacks

    Anchors at CNN and MSNBC and prominent Democrats were targeted for attack by a Coast Guard lieutenant arrested Friday on a firearms charge, according to federal prosecutors in Maryland. In court documents revealed Wednesday, prosecutors describe the firearms and controlled substance charges Christopher Paul Hasson is facing as “the proverbial tip of the iceberg.” CNN’s [...]

  • Jussie Smollett suspect

    Jussie Smollett Named a Suspect by Chicago Police for Filing False Report

    Chicago police have named “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett as a suspect in a criminal investigation, three weeks after he reported he was the victim of a hate crime. Detectives are presenting evidence to a grand jury, which is expected to determine whether to indict Smollett on a charge of filing a false police report. “Jussie [...]

  • Contract Placeholder Business

    WGA, Agents Face Tough Issues on New Franchise Pact (Column)

    The Writers Guild of America and the major talent agencies are seven weeks away from a deadline that could force film and TV writers to choose between their agents and their union. This is a battle that has been brewing for a year but few in the industry saw coming until a few weeks ago. [...]

  • Island Records Names Christine Kauffman Senior

    Island Records Names Christine Kauffman Senior VP of Brand Partnerships

    Veteran advertising executive Christine Kauffman has been named senior VP of brand partnerships at Island Records, the company announced today. She will be based in New York and report to Island COO Eric Wong. In making the announcement, Island President Darcus Beese said, “The fast-paced and competitive field of strategic brand marketing has become an [...]

  • Latin Music Veteran Nir Serioussi Joins

    Latin Music Veteran Nir Serioussi Joins Interscope as Executive VP

    Interscope Geffen A&M announced today that veteran executive, producer and songwriter Nir Seroussi will join the company as executive vice president. The announcement was made by Interscope Geffen A&M Chairman and CEO John Janick, to whom Serioussi will report. (Seroussi, center, is pictured above with Janick, left, and Interscope EVP Joie Manda.) According to the [...]

  • Tan FranceUnforgettable Gala, Inside, Los Angeles,

    'Queer Eye' Star Tan France to Host Audiobook Audie Awards

    “Queer Eye” resident style expert Tan France is taking on a slightly different project next month as he hosts the Audie Awards, which honors the best releases and achievements in audiobooks over the past 12 months. The ceremony, which takes place on March 4 in New York, is an annual event organized by the Audio [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content