UPDATED, July 3, 6:15PM: Digital Domain issued a statement today to clarify any misconceptions about its ownership in the wake of the deal: “A press release issued on July 2, 2014 announcing the purchase of a 30.2% stake by Mumbai-based Reliance Media Works in Prime Focus Ltd. implied that Prime Focus now has access to or control over the visual effects house Digital Domain 3.0. This transaction had no effect on the management and control of Digital Domain 3.0, which remains unchanged. Digital Domain Holdings Limited in Hong Kong continues to be the majority owner of Digital Domain 3.0.”
PREVIOUSLY: The deal, announced in India overnight, is Prime’s latest move to build a globe-girdling VFX and media-services company, and it comes just days after Prime Focus World merged with Oscar-winning UK effects house Double Negative. The newest deal will merge Reliance Capital subsidiary Reliance MediaWorks’ film and VFX operations — which also include Lowry Digital, a 30-percent share of Digital Domain and 1M square feet of production and post-production facilities in Mumbai — to make what the companies called the world’s largest independent VFX and animation house. Money from the Reliance buy-in, an infusion of about $40 million, will finance the Double Negative merger and further expand operations, the companies said in a release. In return, Reliance Capital will get a 30-percent stake in the merged company, which will headed by Prime Focus executive Chairman and CEO Namit Malhotra. Reliance previously held a stake in Prime Focus, but exited after Prime went public in 2006.
The combined operations will have revenues of nearly $300 million a year, and create a merged media-services and VFX group with 5,500 employees in 20 locations – including Mumbai, Vancouver, China and London, as well as Prime’s Hollywood headquarters – handling services such as 3D conversion, animation, and cloud-based digital media solutions for film, TV and advertising. The companies claim the merger will bring “instant benefits to global clients, with new levels of creativity, technology innovation, truly integrated digital media services, unmatched scale, financial stability and sustainability.”
The merger also brings the $6 billion Reliance balance sheet into play for Prime as it explores new revenue opportunities, such as its earlier investment in the upcoming sequel Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. Prime made both an $8 million equity investment in the film, and received about $12 million in work for the project, which is effects heavy thanks to its reliance on green-screen technologies, said Prime spokesperson Hope Boonshaft. Reliance Capital has film-investing experience in Hollywood, having backed Steven Spielberg’s production of War Horse. Heads of the merged executives are expected to meet after the holiday. The three companies have worked on films such as the Dark Knight trilogy, the latest Transformers movie, Inception, Gravity, the Harry Potter series and Avatar.