Dr D Studios posted a net profit of $8.79 million last financial year, according to financial documents filed with the corporate regulator. However, the future of the company remains unclear following a production lull in the wake of Happy Feet Two.
Sources say a board meeting will be held this week where the future of the company will be discussed by joint partners Omnilab Media and Kennedy Miller Features. It is believed that about 20 people are still employed by the company – a far cry from the more than 650 it employed at its peak last year while it rushed to finish 3D animated feature Happy Feet Two.
Late last year, Dr D director Doug Mitchell said the business had been restructured as it faced a production gap between Happy Feet Two and the fourth Mad Max film, Fury Road. He also raised the possibility that the the Dr D joint partnership may be dissolved.
Representatives from Dr D and Omnilab did not respond to emailed questions.
Fury Road has been in development for more than two years while other major Dr D projects have failed to get off the ground in recent times. Another source said Warner Bros had assumed control of Fury Road in late-December. Containers are being shipped to Africa where the production will now be filmed. Dr D director and filmmaker George Miller has claimed that the decision to leave Australian shores was prompted by excessive green vegetation in Broken Hill, NSW.
A spokeswoman for the NSW government said it remains committed to supporting the local industry (the previous state government provided Dr D and the Happy Feet Two production with a payroll tax subsidy in 2008).
"We understand that, disappointingly, staff could not be retained at Dr D after the completion of Happy Feet Two because of a production gap. With the high Australian dollar, the environment for large scale film production is much more challenging than it was in 2008.
"We nevertheless remains committed to attracting international productions and, as you know, recently secured the significant animated feature LEGO. We are in ongoing discussions with US studios to attract production to NSW."
Happy Feet Two has not met box office expectations after grossing $US145.6 million globally, according to Box Office Mojo (the first film, which was animated by Animal Logic, grossed $US384.3 million in 2006-07.) Happy Feet Two suffered numerous delays and the final production budget – originally set at around $120 million – is understood to have skyrocketed to about $180 million.
However, that result may not have directly affected the financial position of Dr D Studios. Any actual losses are likely to be related to the special purpose vehicle behind Happy Feet Two (Mumble Productions), which has not filed financial documents, and the companies which funded it, including Village Roadshow.
Dr D Studios’ net annual profit of $8.79 million in 2010-11 more than doubled the $4.12 million it posted a year earlier, according to accounts lodged with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. The company's revenue was $61.78 million, which was also more than double the previous year at $29.39 million.
The accounts do not show the impact and cost of employing almost 200 extra staff after June 30, 2011 (when it had 495 employees) in order to meet its October 28 delivery deadline for Happy Feet Two.
The accountants and directors who signed the accounts on October 31, 2011, said there were no significant events after the balance date that may affect the company’s operations.