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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Splat-ter of the Week (the “Day Late and Dollar Short” Edition): Digital Domain

This week we have to hand it to Digital Domain, the special effects company that dazzled us first with its work in movies such as Titanic and now with its splatting.  

On Tuesday, Digital Domain filed for bankruptcy, lasting just 10 months after its initial public offering.  (Yes, we see the parallels between the life span of Digital Domain and that of our marriage but we’re in charge here, which means we’re going to ignore them.)

The company was founded in 1993 but its leadership didn’t decide to take it public –a move some might consider its “Iceberg Moment”--until last November.  Digital Domain ripped the proverbial hull as soon as it hit the exchange.  Analysts had expected the stock to open at $10-12 per share, yet it debuted at only $8.50. 

(Here, we pause to note that James Cameron, the director of Titanic, was one of the company’s co-founders.  Because Cameron grasps that it’s better to tell the story of a sinking ship than to be on one, he seems to have found a lifeboat and jumped off before the IPO.)

Digital Domain never made the big splash envisioned for it.  By spring of 2012 its stock price had dipped to around $5.  

(Here we pause again to note that Dan Marino, former quarterback of the Miami Dolphins, is one of the company’s main shareholders.  He’s shed somewhere around $13 million in record time,  causing us to wonder whether maybe he ought to be doing commercials for bankruptcy as a weight loss method rather than Nutri-System.)

After hitting the IPO ‘berg, Digital Domain bounced back briefly in April when it produced a hologram of Tupac Shakur, the deceased rapper.  The hologram showed up onstage at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts festival and performed next to Snoop Dogg, to the complete amazement of onlookers.  This technological masterpiece briefly revived the company’s sagging stock, along with the tabloid industry.  (It did not have a similarly miraculous effect on the deceased rapper.)

Investors’ renewed confidence in Digital Domain was short-lived, alas, and bankruptcy followed pretty swiftly.  Hearings began this week and have featured some very interesting testimony, as well as a hologram of twenty-five cubic feet of cash.  Okay, we might be kidding about that last part.  But we’re totally serious as we honor Digital Domain for doing a financial Titanic, albeit at a slower pace and without an orchestra on the Ledo Deck. 

Step on up and grab your golden pancake, you sultans of special effects. We know you’re hard up so we won’t even charge you for it.


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