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Digital Domain invested $17 million in 'Ender's Game'

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Digital Domain, the visual-effects company that is co-producing the Lionsgate movie "Ender's Game," invested about $17 million in cash to help produce the much-anticipated movie, two former company executives said.

In a highly unusual move, the pioneering visual-effects house -- co-founded by director James Cameron in 1993 -- is co-producing "Ender's Game," which hits theaters on Nov. 1, with OddLot Entertainment and Summit Entertainment.

The big-screen adaptation of the popular 1985 book of the same name by Orson Scott Card, is among the most expensive independent movies ever made, with a budget of more than $100 million.

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Digital Domain declined to disclose how much it invested in film in a Los Angeles Times story on the studio's involvement in the film earlier this week.

But in an interview Friday, John Textor, the chief executive of the Florida-based company that previously owned the Venice studio, said the company invested $17.2 million in exchange for a 37% equity stake in the project.

Additionally, the company agreed to contribute visual-effects work at "cost," without charging a markup for its services on the film. That had a value of about $10 million, which would be recouped by giving Digital Domain a share in box-office revenues, said Textor, the former CEO of Digital Domain Media Group.

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DDMG filed for bankruptcy protection from creditors last year. Its Venice studio was subsequently sold in a bankruptcy auction and is now 70% owned by Hong Kong-based company Sun Innovation, a trading and real estate company, and India-owned Reliance MediaWorks, which holds a 30% stake.

Another former Digital Domain executive who asked not to be identified also confirmed the company's investment level in "Ender's Game," believed to be among the largest ever for a visual-effects studio in a live-action feature film.

Textor said the investment was justified as part of a broader strategy to give the company a financial stake in the effects-laden projects it played a key role in developing, such as Disney's "Tron: Legacy." He said funds raised by foreign investors minimized the risk to the studio.

"'Ender's Game' will do well enough to have justified the investment and will likely produce continuing returns, maybe even sequels, back to Digital Domain, " Textor said. "Until the industry is rewarded for its creativity, it willl suffer and diminish."

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