Digital Animation Institute in West Palm Gets State License
The Florida Department of Education has granted Digital Domain Institute a license to operate its experimental film animation school, paving the way for the company to start classes next spring.
With the license, company officials say, they’ll be able to begin the certificate program in temporary space in CityPlace. A four-year program, in conjunction with the Florida State University film school, is scheduled to open in the fall of 2012, also in CityPlace temporary space.
The city has millions of dollars invested in the institute, in grants and financing. They’ve expressed hope it will enliven civic and corporate life downtown, particularly when the company builds its new home there.
Digital is still years away from opening that 150,000 square foot building it’s planning at Okeechobee Boulevard and Dixie Highway, to be partly financed through a $10 million grant and $15 million loan from the city. The city also provided the land, a pivotal site where officials hope the company’s building will serve as a visual gateway to West Palm Beach.
“It takes a lot of work to get licensed and we’re proud of it,” Digital Domain Media Group CEO John Textor said Wednesday.
The Digital Domain Institute will be an experimental digital animation college that will teach students how to create film graphics. It was eligible for public financing because of its partnership with Florida State University.
Digital Domain, which has created special effects for numerous films, is also constructing a film studio in Port St. Lucie. In total, Digital Domain has been promised $132 million in cash, land, tax credits and financing from the state, Port St. Lucie and West Palm Beach. The company went public last month, raising $39 million in its initial public offering. The company had asked regulators for permission to raise up to $115 million. But Textor said the company had raised over $100 million through private investors, as the stock markets remained weak.
The stock (NYSE: DDMG) on Wednesday was trading at $5.20 a share, down from $8.50 when it first went public.
Textor said he was confident that construction would start by Dec. 31, 2013, per Digital’s agreement with the city. He expects to announce an architect and builder in the next three months, he said.
“You know how easy it is to build a $45 million building?” Textor said. “It only takes $10 million in equity.”
Both Digital Domain and FSU are currently hiring staff for the institute.
Kim Briesemeister, the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency director, said she’s confident everything is on track.
“The question I posed, if for whatever reason the IPO (initial public offering) doesn’t generate the revenue you want, do you have an alternate funding source for Phase 1 (of the institute?). Their answer was ‘yes,’ ” Briesemeister said. “My understanding at this stage is, I don’t believe the IPO was raised to fund the entire capital project.”
Meanwhile, Digital Domain Media Group also on Wednesday announced a new venture in China that the company said will let it create “the highest quality animation, achieved at the lowest possible cost.”
Digital is to provide visual effects and animation from a facility that will be similar to its animation studio in Port St. Lucie. Its partner in China is Beijing Galloping Horse Film Co.