The 10 Most Innovative Companies in Film

From Netflix to Participant Media, these companies are changing how we consume entertainment on screens big and small.


01 / Netflix >>

For ushering in the era of streaming video. Netflix has grown to more than 20 million subscribers, $2.2 billion in annual revenue, and nearly 70% of its subscribers have streamed video over the Internet for at least 15 minutes. With 2010’s introduction of an iPad app and a long awaited iPhone app, those numbers are sure to increase.

02 / Double Negative >>

For blowing our minds with Oscar-worthy visual effects. If you saw any mind-boggling moments in 2010, chances are Double Negative created them. The visual-effects studio is responsible for the whiz-bang elements in Inception, real-world-meets-video-game Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Iron Man 2, and November’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1.

03 / Real D

For taking 3-D mainstream. RealD is working with Sony, JCV, Samsung, Toshiba, Panasonic, and DirecTV to bring 3-D capabilities to the home after tripling the number of 3-D-capable cinema screens installed worldwide to 9,500. RealD provides the technology for 85% of all 3-D films; more than 30 are planned for 2011.


04 / Dreamworks

For cornering the market on brand extensions. Shrek has spawned a Tony-nominated Broadway musical and a national tour (Madagascar is up next). And last November, just before the release of Megamind, Dreamworks Animation teamed up with FarmVille creator Zynga to build a Mega-Farm, the first ever feature film integration with the popular social game.

05 / Participant Media

For creating big-screen movies that can affect big-time social change. Just as 2008’s Food Inc. took on the corporate-controlled food industry and 2009’s The Cove aimed to stop mass dolphin-killings, 2010’s Waiting for Superman opened our nation’s eyes to the vast problems in our public education system. To promote the movie and its message, Participant is also working with advocacy groups, such as Michelle Rhee’s “Students First.”

06 / AMC Theaters

For transforming itself into an entertainment center and venue rather than just a cinema. It hosts sporting-event viewing parties, and Saturday morning airings of the Met opera sell out at $20 a ticket. It’s also expanding a fine-dining Fork & Screen program.


07 / Tool of North America

For ushering in interactive cinema on the iPad. Tool of North America’s Touching Stories is an iPad app that allows viewers to interact with the characters in the movie or ad they’re viewing. In one short film created by the company to showcase the app’s abilities, viewers can nudge characters on the screen (though they interpret it as a ghost), or shake the iPad to subject them to an earthquake.

08 / Tiffen

For bringing its high-end filmmaker tools to the masses. Tiffen created a handheld Steadicam (the stabilizing mount for filmmaking that creates even-handed shots even when the camera operator is moving quickly) for smartphones called the Smoothee, attaching to the smartphone to keep it isolated from small, jerky movements.

09 / Gnomon School of Visual Effects

For being the top educator in visual effects. Last July it launched Gnomon Studios, where advanced students work on professional projects under the guidance of industry directors and producers. Gnomon also launched its first full-time, three-year program for artists interested in working in production for films, games, and TV, including specialized tracks for modeling and texturing, character animation, visual effects animation, and 3-D.


10 / Magnolia Pictures

For its creative approach to indie film marketing. To release the Freakonomics movie, based on the book by the same name, Magnolia pictures chose an unconventional marketing strategy, releasing the movie through video on demand and iTunes before its schedule theatrical release. They also offered pay-as-you-wish screenings in 10 markets, with a minimum cost of $.01 and a maximum of $100. One-third of the tickets went for a penny, but the stunt generated interest for a tricky independent film.

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