A significant part of James Cameron’s mega epic Avatar, with a budget of over $230 million (nearly Rs 1,100 crore) — the most expensive Hollywood movie ever made — has been brought to life by an Indian visual effects (VFX) company — Prime Focus.
The company earned $4 million (over Rs 18 crore) from a deal to create 200 shots of the 1,600-odd shots in Avatar. Fox Star Studios is believe to have spent $180 million (over Rs 840 crore) on special effects.
Prime Focus is increasingly becoming a hot favorite among Hollywood filmmakers and, as a result, has worked on some box-office blockbusters like New Moon and GI Joe. Almost 80 per cent of New Moon’s special effects were done by Prime Focus.
“It takes at least six months for one Hollywood project. Therefore, we sign three-four movies in a year,” said Namit Malhotra, founder and global CEO, Prime Focus.
According to Malhotra, Hollywood is a big market and one needs to be where the business comes from. Therefore, Malhotra has set up facilities in New York, London and Los Angeles, apart from the India set-up. “Most of the work is done there for Hollywood projects simply because India is not yet ready for the level of work international studios want,” added Malhotra. Prime Focus has a 1,200-strong workforce of which almost 750 personnel are based in India. Going forward, Prime Focus plans to outsource work to India, for which it is training its Indian team.
“Eventually both projects will be jointly handled by the international and Indian teams,” said Malhotra.
In addition to the international movie business, Prime Focus is a name filmmakers swear by in Bollywood too. Special effects of almost all big-ticket Bollywood films, like Blue, Paa, Wake up Sid, Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani and De Dhana Dhan came under Prime Focus’ fold. The company is now working on the much-awaited Karan Johar-Fox Star Studios’ My Name Is Khan, starring Kajol and Shah Rukh Khan. Prime Focus works on almost 50 Bollywood films in a year, controlling over 65 per cent of the domestic market.
Formed in 1995, Prime Focus has climbed up the ladder, working first on ad films and then television content, and now on movies. The company took a big leap in 2006 when it raised Rs 115 crore from the capital market.
It acquired a stake in UK-based high-end post production facility VTR Plc, which helped it set shop in UK. It also acquired a visual effects boutique Clear Plc. It later forayed into North America through an acquisition. Prime Focus’ market cap is around Rs 296 crore.
The Indian VFX industry’s size in estimated at Rs 280 crore in 2009, versus Rs 230 crore in 2008. By 2013, the VFX industry in India has the potential to grow to Rs 560 crore, according to Ficci-KPMG’s report.