The Vancouver branch of the visual effects and animation company that has worked on such films as The Martian, The Lion King and the upcoming Godzilla vs. Kong has shut down its Vancouver operation amid a production boom in B.C.
Representatives of Moving Picture Co. (MPC) did not respond to calls and e-mails seeking comment, but a letter circulated to staff, and provided to The Globe and Mail, blamed “external market pressures in Vancouver and more attractive opportunities in other locations” for creating a challenging environment to sustain the studio, which has been operating in the city since 2007.
By 2013, the studio had grown to about 800 artists working on visual effects and animation, although it is unclear how many employees were at the operation when it closed down this week.
On Thursday, there was a security guard at the door of the Yaletown offices of the company, who said the operation is officially closed, but declined to elaborate.
MPC continues to operate in other locations such as Montreal, Paris, Toronto and Los Angeles.
The B.C. government made the best of the situation, which comes amid a largely Hollywood-funded production boom that has seen continuing work on B.C.-shot TV series The Good Doctor, Batwoman and Riverdale as well as feature movies such as pending work on the third Jurassic World film.
“While we are disappointed to learn of this company’s decision and the impact on their employees, we remain confident in the thriving creative sector we have in B.C.,” said a statement issued on behalf of B.C. Culture Minister Lisa Beare.
Ms. Beare noted that the interactive and digital media industry generates about $2.3-billion in annual revenue and employs 16,500 people, and the government continues to support the sector through tax credits. “Our province remains a global destination for this sector,” she said.
Vancouver Film Commissioner David Shepheard also said talks with major studios and streamers indicate a continued demand for postproduction and visual-effects services in B.C., with Vancouver serving as a key hub for the work.
Still, he said, “We feel for the many talented artists in the MPC team during this time.”
But Brenda Bailey, executive director of the DigiBC animation, visual effects and video games industry association, said the exit of the company was an ominous development for the industry in B.C.
Asked about MPC’s cryptic comments on the challenging environment in the province, Ms. Bailey said in an interview that there has been a concern that B.C. may be about to reduce the tax breaks provided to the industry, although she has not directly heard that from the government.
She said some artists at the company will be absorbed by other companies, among the dozens of similar-sized operations in the B.C. production sector, but others may leave the province to find work elsewhere in the world.
Ms. Bailey said DigiBC and another organization, the Animation and Visual Effects Alliance of BC, have organized an emergency hiring fair for workers affected by the MPC shutdown.
She said 10 studios, including Industrial Light and Magic, known for their work on the Star Wars films, have confirmed they will attend the Dec. 17 gathering.
“Eight hundred jobs lost is real, and even if it’s half that amount,” she said, referring to the possibility that the company may have trimmed its work force given a decline in production assignments.
“This isn’t a small company. We’re seeing a downturn in forestry. We can’t afford a downturn in another [industry].”
She said government must ensure that other companies do not similarly depart the province over the concerns reportedly raised by MPC.
“If other studios and other clients start to get the picture that B.C. is not competitive, then we’re worried,” Ms. Bailey said. “This is a really important part of our economy.”
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