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Our History

Our Company 1For more than 40 years, MacGillivray Freeman Films—a talented and innovative team of specialists in the development, production, and distribution of giant screen experiential films—has studied and perfected the art of motion pictures entertainment. Founded by Greg MacGillivray and the late Jim Freeman, this award-winning film production company creates positive, enriching motion picture experiences as it explores new and more exciting ways to take audiences on an unforgettable adventure. The most experienced independent producer and distributor of special venue (70mm) motion pictures in the world, MacGillivray Freeman Films produces films known for their artistry and successful blend of education and entertainment.


Our Company 2MacGillivray Freeman Films is the world's most prolific independent producer of giant screen films with 35 giant-screen films to its credit. This relatively small company is creator of the highest-grossing giant-screen film ever produced (Everest, 1998), the longest-running documentary to play in one theatre (To Fly! has played at the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum non-stop since 1976), two Oscar®-nominated documentaries, The Living Sea (1995) and Dolphins (2000), and most recently Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk 3D, the sixth in its acclaimed series of water-themed conservation films.

Greg MacGillivray started the company with Jim Freeman. They met in the early 1960s when both were focusing their lenses on the art and sport of surfing. Together they produced several films including the surf cult classic, Five Summer Stories. The two gained critical success as they ventured into commercials, corporate promotional pieces and Hollywood motion pictures. Their photography for the documentary Sentinels of Silence helped the film win two Academy Awards® in 1971 and their camera work for Jonathan Livingston Seagull helped the film receive an Academy Award-nomination for Best Cinematography in 1973. The Towering Inferno, for which they supplied aerial photography, received a 1974 Oscar in cinematography and was that year's highest grossing motion picture.

Our Company 27The team's aerial filmmaking expertise prompted an offer from the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum to produce the bicentennial film for the museum's new IMAX® Theatre, the first of its kind in the United States. By 1976, MacGillivray and Freeman were set to release their inaugural giant screen production, To Fly! Just two days before the premiere, the auspicious event turned tragic. On a test shoot in California, Freeman died in a helicopter accident.  Devastated by the loss of his business partner and best friend, MacGillivray somehow mustered the strength to carry on.  He kept Jim’s name as part of the company in honor of his creativity and innovative spirit.

Selected in 1996 by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry, To Fly! joined other classics such as Citizen Kane and Gone with the Wind as one of the most important films in 100 years of American filmmaking history. The film has been seen by over 100 million people since it first premiered at the Smithsonian in 1976, and in 2001 it was inducted into the IMAX Hall of Fame.

MacGillivray and his company are responsible for several technical innovations for the IMAX format, including the development of specialty cameras and photographic techniques. Each add to the visceral experience unique to the format. The company mounted the giant camera on a jet dragster, a whitewater kayak, a downhill ski racer, Our Company 28the Blue Angels' F/A 18 jet aircraft, and inside the P-3, a research plane that flies into hurricanes. They even placed their camera directly in the path of an avalanche to achieve a maximum impact shot.

In 1996, a MacGillivray Freeman climbing and film production team photographed from the summit of Mt. Everest with a lightweight, all-weather camera designed for the extreme Himalayan conditions. This 42-pound camera was still the heaviest ever to photograph on the world's tallest mountain. Released in 1998, Everest quickly toppled all major attendance records in the giant-screen industry. For the first time, a giant-screen film ranked among the top ten grossing films on the North American box office charts.  Everest is currently the highest-grossing giant screen film of all time.

In 1998, the company embarked on its most far-reaching project ever: the start of production on ten real-life adventure documentaries that fall under the brand Great Adventure Films®. These films take GAF Logoaudiences on giant screen adventures to extraordinary places in the company of unique and compelling individuals. Films that have appeared under the Great Adventure Film umbrella are Everest, Dolphins, Journey Into Amazing Caves, Coral Reef Adventure, Mystery of the Nile, Greece: Secrets of the Past, The Alps and Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk 3D.

Our Company 6In March 2008, the company released its first 3-D giant screen experience, Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk 3D, a hopeful look at the world’s freshwater shortage and how ordinary people can make a difference. The critically acclaimed film led to much-needed public awareness about the importance of water conservation.  It continues the company’s mission to produce at least ten films about water and ocean conservation issues, following the company’s popular water-themed films The Living Sea, Dolphins, Coral Reef Adventure, Mystery of the Nile and Hurricane on the Bayou

Our Company 8In 2004, Greg MacGillivray and his wife Barbara founded the non-profit MacGillivray Freeman Films Educational Foundation whose aim is to contribute to the conservation of our natural and cultural heritage through giant screen films and companion educational programming. In 2011, MacGillivray Freeman Films launched the world’s largest ocean media campaign, a 10 year global initiative called One World One Ocean that includes three 3D IMAX films, a 3D theatrical documentary, a 3D television series, numerous online videos, a social action campaign and advertising campaign—all designed to dramatically reshape the way we think about the ocean and inspire much-needed change.

The company has more than 8 films in active production or development including Humpback Whales, Everest: Conquering Thin Air, and One World One Ocean.  MacGillivray Freeman’s most recent releases Arabia 3D (2010) and To The Arctic 3D (2012) take audiences on giant-screen journeys to extraordinary regions of the world that few will be able visit on their own.