British Columbia

Sony Pictures Imageworks moving headquarters to Vancouver

One of Hollywood's biggest visual effects studios Sony Pictures Imageworks is moving its headquarters from California to Vancouver, the company has confirmed.

Visual effects studio will join Microsoft in offices above new Nordstrom building

Sony studio moving HQ to Vancouver

9 years ago
Duration 2:05
Imageworks is one of the industry's foremost VFX studios

One of Hollywood's biggest visual effects studios Sony Pictures Imageworks is moving its headquarters from California to Vancouver, the company has confirmed.

The Oscar-winning animation division of Sony recently produced some of the effects on the Tom Cruise sci-fi thriller Edge of Tomorrow and The Amazing Spider Man 2.

The company will be moving into a new 74,000-square-foot studio at the Pacific Centre, making it the city's largest visual effects and digital character animation studio by floor space. 

The former Sears building on Granville and Robson streets in downtown Vancouver is being renovated to open as the new home of Nordstom and Microsoft in 2015. (Nordstrom)

“Vancouver has developed into a world-class centre for visual effects and animation production,” said Randy Lake, executive vice president and general manager at Sony Pictures Digital Productions, in a statement issued on Friday morning.

“It offers an attractive lifestyle for artists in a robust business climate. Expanding our headquarters in Vancouver will allow us to deliver visual effects of the highest calibre and value to our clients.”

The old Sears building is currently being renovated for by Cadillac Fairview for U.S. retail giant Nordstrom. Earlier this year Microsoft announced plans to open a new division in the building as well.

Amazon also announced plans last year to open a major office about a two blocks away in Vancouver's new Telus Garden building, following similar announcements by Hootsuite and Twitter.

VFX capital of North America

Journalist David Cohen, who covers the visual effects — commonly abbreviated to VFX — industry for Variety Magazine in Los Angeles, says the move makes Vancouver the VFX capital of North America.

"The whole visual effects industry is basically built with a global migratory workforce of the best artists from around the world," says Cohen.

"So they might be coming from Canada, but they might also be coming from India, China, France, you know, the U.S.A., Germany — wherever there are skilled visual effects artists. So they hire from a global workforce."

Nevertheless, Imageworks' director of publicity says they will definitely be hiring a lot locally too, "especially since there is a great talent base already established."

Cohen says ultimately Sony is taking advantage of a large tax credit in B.C., and could just as easily move to another city in the future, if it gets a better deal.

Industry reports agree, crediting a 58 per cent tax incentive in B.C. for the company's decision to move its entire studio north.

The new Vancouver operation will be led by Vancouver native Jason Dowdeswell, and new hires Mark Breakspear and Shauna Bryan, from rival Vancouver VFX company  Method Studios.

Imageworks already has a studio in Vancouver's Yaletown, with a fluctuating staff of 80 to 350, which the company announced earlier this year would produce the visual effects for the upcoming Angry Birds movie.