Digital Domain Media Group, the production company behind the effects in Titanic and this year’s headline-grabbing Tupac hologram, filed yesterday for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The company, which counts Titanic helmer James Cameron among its founders, has been around for about two decades but went public less than a year ago, raising $42 million in its initial public offering. In this week’s press release to its investors, the company revealed that as of late June it owed $214 million but only possessed $205 million in assets.
And there’s a chance the debt could increase. The company recently opened an animation studio in Port St. Lucie, Fla., that cost the government $135 million in subsidies, according to Reuters. But that money came with conditions. A local NBC affiliate, WPTV, says that the government funding was in return for promised job creation on the scale of 500 jobs by 2014, and that local government officials will attempt the difficult task of getting the tax-dollar investments back, now that the Port St. Lucie studio has closed, leaving the area down 300 jobs instead of up 500.
Not that the company is folding completely: part of the bankruptcy proceedings involves the sale of the company’s production arm, the digital effects business that the Los Angeles Times calls the core of the business, to a private equity fund called Searchlight Capital Partners. CNN also reports that the Ender’s Game movie produced by Digital Domain is still on track for a release in November of next year.
And if you want to get in on the action, you can. Even though Searchlight Capital Partners is planning to buy the production company for $15 million, the bankruptcy process requires an auction, which will be held on Sept. 21—so start saving your pennies, and quick.