With the launch of Hulu Desktop and the addition of Disney/ABC content to its lineup, the upstart reinforced its spot as the place for viewing long-form entertainment online. Letting viewers select the ads they want will help it build on the estimated $140 million it took in last year. Top 50 No. 11
The ubiquitous alternative to going to the movies, the company rolled out a digital distribution model by inserting itself into Blu-ray players and TiVo for easy streaming. Its model has decimated the DVD retail market and 2009 revenues were up some 20% over the previous year. Top 50 No. 12
It acquired Marvel, the most significant superhero-movie franchise maker in the business; Up continued Pixar's streak of animated blockbusters while also pushing the limits of what can be considered a kids' movie; and ABC's tweak on cult Fox hit Arrested Development turned sitcom Modern Family into a winner. Top 50 No. 20
4. Weta Digital
It's hard to talk about 2009 films without highlighting District 9 and phenomenon Avatar. Under Peter Jackson's guidance, Weta provided the mind-blowing special effects for both. Innovation All-stars
5. DreamWorks Animation
An early bet on 3-D animation paid off with the success of Monsters vs. Aliens. The company has become a tech incubator at the intersection of entertainment and high tech, spinning out ideas to Silicon Valley companies like HP and Intel.
6. Rainbow Media
The fastest-growing programming group of 2009 in revenue, Rainbow outpaced Viacom, Disney, Time Warner, and Discovery. The company (a division of Cablevision) owns and operates AMC, the Sundance Channel, IFC, IFC Films, and WE tv. Breaking Bad and Mad Men have reinvented the AMC brand. Rainbow has also rescued the independent-film biz with multiple releases on big and small screens and a partnership with Blockbuster.
7. Funny or Die
The dominant player in short-form Web video, it helped launch Zach Galifianakis to stardom with his Between Two Ferns interview series and inserted itself into the national conversation with videos on gay marriage and health care. An HBO series and a YouTube collaboration will continue to attract eyeballs.
8. Summit Entertainment
The muscle behind the Twilight film franchise, Summit took a hot property and turbocharged it. Advance ticket sales for Twilight sequel New Moon were the largest in history, besting The Dark Knight and every Harry Potter and Star Wars movie. Summit has announced the date for the third installment (June 30, 2010, for The Twilight Saga: Eclipse) and will likely have the fourth ready by November—in time to dominate the box office in 2010.
9. Participant Media
Jeff Skoll's production company released a slew of provocative, issue-driven, entertaining films: The Informant; The Cove; Food, Inc.; The Soloist. Even more impressive is the impact of its work. The Cove succeeded almost immediately in ending dolphin slaughter in Taiji, Japan.
The leader in 3-D film tech with more than 90% of the market, RealD has more than 3,200 screens installed (in some 45 countries) with 5,500 more under contract. With revenue three times greater per screen on 3-D showings, RealD helped boost box-office totals to unexpected heights. Next up: 3-D TV. Innovation All-stars