Cafe FX ponders possible move to Texas

Lack of tax incentives driving decision
2010-05-11T00:00:00Z Cafe FX ponders possible move to TexasBy Mike Hodgson / Associate Editor / mhodgson@lompocrecord.com Lompoc Record

Santa Maria’s award-winning special-effects company — Cafe FX — could be leaving the area for greener pastures in Texas.

“That’s one of the options we have,” chief executive officer Jeff Barnes said Monday. “The options also include the potential of staying here a little longer.”

But Texas is one possible target should the company decide to move, he said. Los Angeles is another.

Barnes said the motion picture and special effects industry is driven by tax incentives, and “California doesn’t really have any incentives appropriate to our industry.”

As a result, he said, company officials are “looking at a new business model” and expect to make a formal announcement on whether they will go or stay with a month or so.

Barnes said the decision also hinges on potential outside investments in Cafe FX.

At present, the studio is “on hiatus,” and no one is working, as the company is “retooling” and “making plans for the next chapter,” he said.

In addition to Texas, Barnes said, tax incentives for the film industry are offered by New Mexico, Michigan, New York, Louisiana and Connecticut, among others.

But he said a lot of the industry’s work is now being done in Canada.

“They offer 40-percent tax incentives, which is significant,” he said.

Barnes said the city of Santa Maria is not courting the company to stay “as highly as I would like.”

“In their defense, there’s not a lot they can do,” he added. “It really needs to come from the state level ... and, then, the federal level.”

Cafe FX was launched by Barnes and David Ebner in 1993, and Barnes said the company doesn’t particularly want to leave the city.

Initially called Computer Cafe when it was founded, the company provides visual effects production and supervision, specializing in photo-realistic 3-D environments and character animation.

The company started out doing local commercial and broadcast work, then expanded to regional and national levels.

The first feature film the company worked on was Clive Barker’s “Lord of Illusion” in 1995. Since then, it has been involved in more than 80 films.

Cafe FX probably is best known for its work on the Academy Award-winning “Pan’s Labyrinth.” It also provided the 3-D environment for HBO’s Emmy-winning series “John Adams.”

The company’s most recent film projects include Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland” and Martin Scorsese’s “Shutter Island.”

It also helped create “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter,” the first fully immersive Potter-themed attraction at the Universal Orlando theme park.

In 2002, the company bought a Santa Monica-based telecine company and renamed it the Syndicate, which became an award-winning visual effects company for commercials and music videos.

The company closed that facility in March.

In 2005, Cafe FX moved to its 36,000-square-foot studio on an 8-acre campus on Skyway Drive, and launched the live-action production company Sententia Entertainment.

Barnes couldn’t say how many people the company currently employs, but the Cafe FX website says the studio has enough space for 200 artists.

It also has a cafe, fitness center, games area, 60-seat theater and two-lane bowling alley.

The effects of Cafe FX

Here’s a list of some of the more recognizable films among the more than 80 with special effects by Cafe FX:

“Final Destination: Death Trip 3D” (2009)

“Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian” (2009)

“Seven Pounds” (2008)

“The Happening” (2008)

“Speed Racer” (2008)

“Iron Man” (2008)

“Nim’s Island” (2008)

“Ghost Rider” (2007)

“Snakes on a Plane” (2006)

“The Astronaut Farmer” (2006)

“The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” (2006)

“Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006)

“Sin City” (2005)

“Mr. and Mrs. Smith” (2005)

“Bad News Bears” (2005)

“Fantastic Four” (2005)

“Flight of the Phoenix” (2004)

“Blade: Trinity” (2004)

“Hellboy” (2004)

“Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” (2003)

“Gothika” (2003)

Copyright 2015 Lompoc Record. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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