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Imageworks Expands into New Mexico

Sony Pictures Imageworks officially announced that it is expanding into Albuquerque, New Mexico, "to harness the power of scalable capacity and favorable economics."

According to the LOS ANGELES TIMES, more than 100 jobs will relocate from Culver City to New Mexico, which is providing a combined 25% rebate on taxable production and post-production expenses.

"As Imageworks grows in the production of visual effects and all-CG animation, this additional facility enables the company to increase capacity and take advantage of economic incentives," said Yair Landau, president of Sony Pictures Digital and vice chairman of Sony Pictures Ent. "Establishment of this facility allows Imageworks to serve the filmmaking community as an innovative visual effects and digital character creator and as the digital production studio for Sony Pictures Animation."

Imageworks' Albuquerque facility is expected to encompass about 100,000 square feet of the 550,000 square foot studio complex underway from Pacifica Studios. This new powerhouse of the entertainment industry is in the district of Mesa del Sol, the 12,900-acre master-planned development on the city's southeast mesa, near to where the University of New Mexico has established its film school and close to Albuquerque International Sunport airport.

The physical plant will be designed with an eye toward the future. Modern systems will recycle the heat radiated by the electronics, distribute cooling and heating from ground up for maximum efficiency, draw from solar panels and implement other ecologically aware features.

Imageworks' headquarters in Culver City comprises space in nine digitally connected but separate buildings. Technology already in use means the satellite operations will be seamlessly integrated into the existing production pipeline.

Other satellite Imageworks facilities were announced earlier this year, one in Chennai, India, and a smaller one in Novato, California. Each Imageworks facility meets a strict set of criteria that includes being convenient for clients, close to centers of artistic excellence and within areas that offer low operational costs and aggressive economic and lifestyle incentives.

In February, Imageworks acquired a controlling interest in internationally known visual effects and animation services company FrameFlow Llc. Now known as Imageworks India, the existing team of 60 visual effects artists increased to as many as 300 and is expected to gradually grow based on production requirements. The two companies proved the value of working together on such movies as SPIDER-MAN 3, CLICK and GHOST RIDER, among many other projects that took advantage of FrameFlow's expertise in digital replacement, cleanup, rotoscoping work and other specialized functions.

In January, John Schlag was confirmed as head of a small Imageworks team in Novato, California, exemplifying the Imageworks philosophy of going where the artists are. Schlag, whose pioneering work in digital imaging earned him a Scientific and Engineering Academy Award, has an extensive list of impressive credits that includes THE MATRIX RELOADED, JURASSIC PARK, FORREST GUMP and DEATH BECOMES HER.

"We are investing in a balanced portfolio of artists and technology," said Sony Pictures Imageworks president Tim Sarnoff said. "This is a long term vision, and the savings will be reflected in our costs across the board while maintaining direct continuity with the producers...Bringing additional offices on line is very much like parallel processing."

Having recently completed SPIDER-MAN 3, current Imageworks projects include BEOWULF (opening Nov. 16, 2007) as well as Sony Pictures Animation features SURF'S UP (opening June 8) and CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS (March 27, 2009).

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson welcomed Imageworks as a valuable addition to the state. "I'm very pleased that Sony Pictures Imageworks has joined New Mexico as our partner for long-term creative and fiscal growth," Governor Richardson said. "It makes me proud that a company of such stature recognizes that New Mexico offers the film industry a supportive environment."

Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez was also enthusiastic. "Imageworks' presence will further enhance Albuquerque's status as one of the nation's top cities for creativity and quality of life," said Mayor Chavez.

"Albuquerque is progressive, the quality of life is high with the cost of living low, and production incentives from the state of New Mexico make it advantageous for us to do business there," said Tom Hershey, svp of operations, Sony Pictures Imageworks. "The overwhelming opportunity is to build a facility from the ground up and influence the way this cutting-edge culture develops."

As part of the relationship between Imageworks and the state, Sarnoff also announced that the University of New Mexico has been selected to be a member of the Imageworks Professional Academic Excellence program (IPAX). This educational program, designed by Imageworks, is intended to build stronger relationships with established academic programs and to nurture and grow future generations of digital talent. One aspect of IPAX gives the faculty of IPAX member schools the opportunity to attend in-house training programs and experience a real world production environment, so they may return with valuable production knowledge and skills to the classroom. The University of New Mexico joins a roster of member schools that includes Animation Mentor, Carnegie Mellon, DePaul University Computer Graphics and Animation Program, Gnomon School of Visual Effects, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Otis College of Art + Design, Pratt Institute School of Art & Design, Ringling School of Art & Design, Stanford University and University of Southern California School of Cinema-Television.

Sony Pictures Imageworks Inc. is an Academy Award-winning, state-of-the-art visual effects and character animation company dedicated to the art and artistry of digital production and character creation. The company has been recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with Oscars for its work on SPIDER-MAN 2 and the CG-animated short film THE CHUBBCHUBBS!, as well as nominations for SUPERMAN RETURNS, SPIDER-MAN, HOLLOW MAN, STUART LITTLE, STARSHIP TROOPERS and THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE.

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