As many as 500 hi-tech film industry jobs for Abu Dhabi are in doubt after Digital Domain Media Group (DDMG), an Oscar-winning US special effects company planning to set up in the capital, filed for bankruptcy protection.
The company, founded by the Titanic director James Cameron, said in May it was setting up a studio at the twofour54 media zone in Abu Dhabi. But that hangs in the balance after DDMG, which has created effects for more than 90 films including Transformers and Tron: Legacy, this month filed for Chapter 11 protection with just US$50,000 (Dh183,645) left in the bank, weighed down by debt and unable to meet its payroll obligations. The company, founded in 1993, had planned to employ more than 500 people in Abu Dhabi.
An executive with knowledge of the situation said it was still possible Digital Domain would set up a base in the UAE - but said it depended on the outcome of the court proceedings in the United States. "It's down to what comes out of the Chapter 11 process," said the executive, who did not wish to be named.
DDMG said in May it would begin producing visual effects and animation from Abu Dhabi at the beginning of next year.
It laid out plans to occupy a 14,000 square metre animation, visual effects and motion-capture studio, which was expected to be operational by the end of 2015.
The studios were due to be accompanied by a Digital Domain Institute media school, which was set to launch at the beginning of 2014 and have a focus on training UAE nationals and other Arabs.
DDMG said in May the "studio and school are funded by $100 million in grants from the Abu Dhabi Government". The status of those grant payments is not clear.
Julie Miller, a spokeswoman for Digital Domain, said she was unable to provide information on whether the company still intended to pursue the Abu Dhabi venture.
"We don't have any further information on the status of that plan," she said.
A spokesman for twofour54 declined to comment.