The present and future of post production business and technology | Philip Hodgetts



Is the ailing VFX industry a warning for the Studio Tentpole strategy?

David Cohen at Variety wrote an in depth story, with the subhead of High-profile bankruptcies point to fragile underpinnings of blockbuster biz, that takes a look at the problems in the Visual Effects industry as a warning for the Studios’ “Tentpole’ strategy.

Cutting straight to the heart of the matter:

Bob Iger has said that tentpoles and franchises are Disney’s future. Other studios seem to be following the same strategy.

I see a tentpole business that’s come to rely on two things: government subsidies and a vast visual effects pipeline where profits are slim to nil and artists are not compensated on par with actors, grips and other unionized pros (i.e., toiling with no health or retirement benefits, under poor working conditions, sometimes with no overtime).

On the tax side, subsidies are distorting the market, encouraging oversupply of both tentpoles and vfx.

All true, which leads to the inevitable question:

A harsh question has to be addressed: Would the studio tentpole business be viable if it couldn’t get vfx companies, states, nations and, yes, even artists, to subsidize the pictures either through tax policy, working for below cost or accepting poor compensation? In short, would tentpole production make financial sense if the studios couldn’t play all these people for saps? I’m not convinced it would.

We already know that subsidies don’t (generally) pan out for the State or County offering them, so is the Tentpole movie ultimately doomed? Of course the subsidies aren’t going away – there’s always another star-struck State Governor who will be seduced into subsidies, but ultimately, if an industry isn’t viable, shouldn’t it be allows to go to to its inevitable conclusion: disruption?

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  • Alex Gollner · February 15, 2013 at 11:15 am

    In the UK some post houses take on some of the risk, but share in the reward as co-producers.

    At some point the difference between vfx companies who make margins and those that don’t might will be obvious enough to producers for them to take profitable companies on as funders.

    However, there’ll always be a steady stream of young people talented enough to work in VFX for no money just so that they can say that they worked on 180 frames of the new Marvel movie.



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