With the opening of Sony Pictures Imageworks' new global headquarters, Vancouver has become the "largest cluster of visual effects and animation studios in the world".
At a press conference held at the 6,900 square metres (74,000 square feet) facility on the fifth floor at 725 Granville Street (formerly inhabited by Sears Canada which will also house Nordstrom), Mayor Gregor Robertson said that according to the latest figures from the Vancouver Economic Commission, the city has risen to the number one spot for global VFX and animation hubs.
Imageworks joins the likes of Method Studios, MPC, and Industrial Light and Magic, which opened a permanent studio here in March 2014.
Sony Pictures Imageworks executive vice-president and general manager Randy Lake explained that the company, which has an office in Culver City, California, first opened up a satellite office in Yaletown in 2010 with a staff of 80 artists. The new head office includes a training facility and screening rooms (called sweatboxes).
"Finally we reached a point last year when we could support all of our departments here and made a decision to relocate our headquarters," Lake said. "Today, we have a staff of over 700 at capacity."
The company, which was founded in 1992, announced its relocation to Vancouver in May 2014. It is now the largest VFX company in Vancouver, with 700 artists employed (90 percent of initial hires were local talent).
B.C. Premier Christy Clark said she had met with Lake on a trade mission in L.A. a few years ago to discuss Vancouver as a location possibility for the company.
She emphasized the importance of supporting talent recruitment and retention in the industry.
"Minister [of Technology, Innovation, and Citizens' Services] Amrik Virk who's here tonight with us is working on a blueprint for skills training to make sure that we are supplying the grants that this industry will need, not just this year but in the future," she said. "Doubling the number of grads for Emily Carr University is another example. It was the single biggest investment that we made in a post-secondary institution of the province."
She also spoke about the role that immigration plays.
"Supporting a progressive immigration policy that means we want to welcome people from around the world, to welcome the best and the brightest to this incredible city and this incredible province, to make their homes and to build our future together."
Robertson echoed the need for government to support the creative industries.
"We want to make sure that the city has a real vibrant arts and culture scene happening here as so many artists all working under one roof. We want to be sure we've got all that kind of action happening in our city and there's work to do on that front. We want to make sure that our schools are supporting you with great kids, great graduates, great talent that's homegrown as well. We've got to work to do between our high school system and post-secondary system."
Imageworks has worked on over 75 productions, including The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Stuart Little, Edge of Tomorrow, Men in Black II and III, and the Spider-Man and Charlie's Angels franchises.
Imageworks has been most recently been working on the movies Pixels, Hotel Transylvania 2, and Disney's Alice in Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass. Forthcoming projects include Suicide Squad, Storks, Angry Birds, The Smurfs, and Ghostbusters.