London VFX facility Cinesite plans to expand operations internationally and diversify into content creation following its purchase by UK private-equity firm Endless LLP. Endless acquired the business from Kodak, which is currently in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and has announced its exit from its traditional business in film and digital image capture.
Terms of the deal were undisclosed. The purchase came as a bit of a surprise to observers who expected an established post-production giant like Technicolor or Deluxe to snap up Cinesite as a ready-made entrée to the U.K.
Cinesite Managing Director Antony Hunt told StudioDaily that Endless emerged as the best deal for both Kodak and the Cinesite management team, which now has an ownership stake in the company. "They are a good, British private-equity company, and that was the right fit for us," he said. "They don't have any [other] businesses like Cinesite, but from where we sit there is growth opportunity with the right investments being pumped in."
In an interview today, Hunt described a Cinesite that's already in expansion mode, having built up to a capacity of over 450 workers to handle stereo-3D conversion work on John Carter. "You can have the swankest building and spend lots of money on kit and process and hardware, but it's all about people," he says. "We have a great team at Cinesite that's doubled in size over the past few years, and we want to continue and expand the Cinesite brand globally."
Plans for that expansion aren't firm yet, but Hunt named Canada, Australia, and the Far East as good prospects, noting that attractive tax incentives continue to make those regions fertile for production. At the same time, Hunt expects Cinesite to explore opportunities in production for commercials and other projects. "We've started on some of our first productions [for broadcast]," he said. "We have a product we anticipate a major broadcaster picking up later in the year."
That doesn't mean Cinesite plans to leave VFX behind, or pull up its roots in London. "[London is] probably the best place outside of North America to make a movie," Hunt said. "If you look at Warner Brothers, which has invested £100 million [$161 million] in Leavesden Studios, that endorses what we're doing."