FX Rhythm and Hues feeling the economic blues

At the Academy Awards on February 24, there weren’t many surprises. You pretty much knew Argo was going to take Best Picture, Daniel Day Lewis was a lock for Best Actor, and Jack Nicholson was going to hit on someone much younger than him.

What was surprising about the night is the protest that gathered outside because it’s hard to imagine any special effects house hurting for money. 

Whenever there’s a big Hollywood event movie, often times numerous effect houses will be working quadruple overtime to deliver the CGI, which often goes right down to the wire before a release date.

One would think FX would be a recession proof business, but as the Hollywood Reporter notes, over five hundred people took to Hollywood Boulevard this Sunday to point out that the economy has also hurt the FX biz. 

Rhythm and Hues did the incredible effects for Life of Pi, and the company had to file Chapter 11 this month. Ironically, Pi won a visual effects Oscar several hours after the protest had finished, and as the protest went down Hollywood Boulevard, a plane flew by with a banner that said: “Box Office + Bankrupt = Visual Effects vfxunion.com.” 

Several of the protest signs said, “Subsidies are destroying VFX,” and “Good. Fast. Cheap. Pick two.” And as Deadline reported, a judge let Legendary Pictures infuse $4.9 million into Rhythm and Hues to finish a movie they’re working on called Seventh Son. The film needs 225 FX shots, but R & H has only been able to finish 25% of the job. 

As the site SCPR reports, Rhythm and Hues has been suffering because more FX companies have been getting into the business, not to mention the major studios are also going offshore to Canada and India for tax breaks.

Indeed, competition from FX houses all over the world is driving down the prices of FX, which makes it harder for companies to make a good profit. 

Pi director Ang Lee told the Reporter, “I hope somehow it gets to be an easier business, cheaper, and more people can put their hands on it.” The fact that Rhythm and Hues filed for bankruptcy is “very sad. I hope they can be saved somehow. My heart goes out to them. The tiger, the water – they did wonderful work, so many people, hundreds and hundreds.” 

It’s hard to imagine most movies today without FX, and it’s bewildering to think an FX house could go out of business considering how much Hollywood needs top quality FX. But if the FX houses are indeed taking gigs at a loss, we may see more of them go under, which as Ang Lee said is indeed very sad.