Sony taps B.C. tax incentives to move visual effects studio to Vancouver

Jamie Foxx as Electro in 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2.' Visual effects were done by a team in Vancouver. Sony

TORONTO — Sony Pictures Imageworks (SPI), which does visual effects and digital animation for feature films, announced Thursday it is moving its headquarters to Vancouver.

Currently based in Culver City, California, the Oscar-winning division of Sony Pictures Entertainment will move into a 74,000-square-foot space in the Pacific Centre next April.

SPI has had a 32,000-square-foot studio in Vancouver since 2010, where 150 people are currently employed.

The new state-of-the-art headquarters will be able to accommodate up to 700.

It is not known how many of the 270 SPI workers in California will relocate to Vancouver.

Founded in 1992, SPI’s long list of credits includes The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Oz The Great and Powerful.

SPI’s current projects include Pixels (shooting this summer in Toronto), Hotel Transylvania 2, the Angry Birds movie and the third Smurfs movie.

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SPI made the decision to move north to take advantage of provincial tax incentives that return 58 per cent of local labour costs.

Houston-based visual effects artist Dave Rand, who has worked for studios on both sides of the border, is one of many in the industry critical of SPI’s motivation for the move.

“Market socialism has never been a producer of real growth and innovation,” Rand said in an email. “These are payoffs, bribes even, and they break international agreements designed to prevent this type of lopsided business model.”

Rand said Hollywood filmmakers want to work with creative teams at home.

“Cyber space is no replacement for human space when it comes to creativity,” he said. “Take a look at the top grossing films of all times. With few exceptions they were made with great live direction of real human beings working in the same breathing space.”