A joint venture led by Chinese film and TV company Galloping Horse has submitted a winning bid to acquire one of Hollywood's leading visual effects studios.
Galloping Horse America, a division of the Beijing-based media company, has partnered with Reliance MediaWorks, the post-production company that is part of the Indian conglomerate Reliance ADA, to buy Digital Domain's visual effects studios in Venice and Vancouver, Canada, for $30.2 million.
The bid potentially marks the latest acquisition of a U.S. media company by a Chinese firm. China's Dalian Wanda Group recently purchased AMC Entertainment, the nation's second-largest theater chain.
The offer, made at an auction in New York on Friday, is subject to approval by the Bankruptcy Court, which will review the proposed sale at a hearing on Monday. The bid is significantly higher than a previously announced offer from private investment firm Searchlight Capital Partners to buy Digital Domain's production studios for $15 million.
“This is a great day for Digital Domain,” said Digital Domain Chief Executive Ed Ulbrich. “Our new partners have incredible strength and reach in the global entertainment marketplace. They are powerful strategic partners that understand our business and our clients’ business. Their support enables us to continue creating the highest quality entertainment and advertising and puts us in the strongest financial position that Digital Domain has ever been in."
Ivy Zhong, vice chairman and managing director of Beijing Galloping Horse Film Co. Ltd., said, “Digital Domain is a legend in the industry, known for its world-class quality of work and creative talent. We are thrilled to have found a partner in Reliance MediaWorks that is as committed as we are to ensuring Digital Domain’s continued excellence and success.”
Reliance has been steadily expanding its influence in Hollywood, buying post-production companies and in 2009 striking a partnership with Steven Spielberg to provide financing for DreamWorks Studios.
Digital Domain previously established a partnership with Reliance MediaWorks last year to open studios in London and Mumbai and to offer a variety of post-production services.
“We have had a wonderful working relationship with Digital Domain over the years and we could not be happier to take it further through the joint Galloping Horse – Reliance acquisition," Venkatesh Roddam, chief executive, Film & Media Services, Reliance MediaWorks, said in a statement.
Beijing Galloping Horse and Reliance MediaWorks have a combined value of more than $25 billion.
Florida-based Digital Domain Media Group filed for bankruptcy protection from creditors under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code earlier this month. The company has been squeezed by rising competition in the increasingly global effects business, fewer film projects and rising expenditures from new efforts, particularly the recently founded animation studio in Port St. Lucie, Fla. The studio opened this year with the help of large financial incentives from the city and state.
Founded in 1993 by "Titanic" and "Avatar" director James Cameron and other partners, Digital Domain has created effects for more than 90 movies, including "Titanic," "Tron: Legacy," "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" and the "Transformers" films. Cameron no longer has a stake in the company.