Is letterboxing becoming a big hit?

Earlier in the last decade, Auckland-based web designers Matthew Buchanan and Karl von Randow of New Zealand were looking for a passionate project. Their business, a boutique web design studio called Cactuslab, has developed apps and websites for a variety of clients, but wants a unique project that the team can plug in when there’s not much else to do. did.

Buchanan had an idea for a social media site about movies. At the time, he looked back and used Flickr to share photos and to share his musical tastes. IMDb was a database. In essence, it wasn’t social. It left a gap in the field. The result is an app called Letterboxd and a social media network. This network is properly described on its website as “Movie Goodreads.”

After being introduced at the Brooklyn Beta web conference in the fall of 2011, Letterboxd has steadily attracted discreet but passionate fans who are eager to track movie watching habits, create a list of favorites, write reviews and publish them. Developed. But in 2020, site growth was explosive. Letterboxing has almost doubled its user base since the pandemic began. According to the company, it currently has over 3 million member accounts. It increased from 1.7 million at this time of last year.

And it’s not just about increasing users. “More activity per member,” Buchanan said in a recent Zoom interview. “Our metrics are improving across the board.” Their revenue has increased from paid membership in advertising and options that provide additional functionality to their users. The company is no longer just a side project for Buchanan and von Landow, but last year they invited a few full-time staff.

The theater remained largely closed, and the pandemic devastated the film industry as well-known blockbusters like “Tenet” underperformed significantly. But for Letterboxd, it has always benefited from staying at home. “We love talking about movies,” said letterbox editor-in-chief Jema Gracewood. “And we’re all stuck indoors, so we’re talking more about what we like lately.”

Initially, letterboxing primarily attracted movie obsessives. Hardcore movie lovers, statistical fanatics, and professional critics trying to keep their published work under one roof. Mike Dangero, a longtime contributor to Entertainment Weekly and Esquire, has used letterboxing to retroactively record every movie he has watched by date since January 1992. He not only uploads old reviews to the platform, but also uses the site as a kind. Of a diary for more off-the-cuff meditation.

“If I’m writing a professional review, I’m writing for the general public,” he said on a recent phone call. “In letterboxing, I’m not worried about proformers like the synopsis. I make jokes and references that you would need to have a fairly deep movie knowledge to understand. I I think it’s much more liberal. “

That freedom gives letterboxing a kind of Western Pioneer quality. What you see at the top of the pages of the most popular review sites is very extensive. There is a vast screed packed with ambiguous memes, dialistic essays, and pseudo-academic terminology. You may find political objections written with breathtaking enthusiasm. “As the most destructive action in the world, as the source of more war, death and exploitation that the world has known since the birth of movable property slavery, imperialism is the highest and most despicable, capitalism. The most terrifying aspect of principle, and we oppose it. “(Of course, a review of” Wonder Woman “.) Or one of the most popular reviews on the site of the movie” Joker “,” This. You might find one mysterious sentence, such as “What happened to my fellow Eric.”

The unedited, anything-like spirit of letterboxing can be offensive. D’Angelo confessed that when the writer refused to “use all lowercase letters” or “use normal grammar and punctuation,” he felt it was “crazy.” However, the lack of rules and structure can lead to some interesting, unconventional criticisms that provide a platform for voices that may not otherwise be heard. At Letterboxd, you’ll find new movies to watch, as well as new critics to follow.

Sydney Wegner, a single mother living in the Texas countryside, began using letterbox in late 2012. I’m writing a vibrant free-form review (mostly lowercase only) of science fiction, horror, and action movies under the username @ campbart. A heartfelt work about “Minions” that can be read like a poetic ode to a daughter. “I wrote that because that’s what I want to read,” she said recently. “I think criticism is very boring unless there is a personal aspect.”

Wegner said, “I didn’t mean to write professionally,” but when her account began to gain followers, she soon realized she was responding to paid job demands as a critic. She appeared as a guest on a movie podcast, introduced the movie screenings, and was commissioned by the editors of several movie review websites, including Film Freak Central.

Lucy May joined Letterboxd in 2015 and is today one of the most popular users with nearly 60,000 followers. The 26-year-old works with her family in a movie theater in her hometown of Illinois, watching movies and writing in detail in letterbox in her spare time.

Mei said she was “a movie fan first and foremost” and not a professional, but she still considers herself a critic. “I call myself a critic of the letterbox era,” she said. She finds this “modern wave of criticism” about letterboxing interesting. “Because many of the old rules are thrown out the window.”

“I’m less shameful when a high-rated old movie is given a low rating, and I’m more fond of searching for things like romantic comedies,” she said. “I find the honesty of letterboxing fascinating. I didn’t go to school for things like writing, but in that sense I call myself a critic.”

The explosion of letterboxd growth certainly tends to be young. In the app reported by the company, 75% of users access Letterboxd, with the largest demographics being 18-24 years old. “The number of young members has increased significantly,” says Greenwood. And she said that when attracted to the platform, these young members often find that their tastes begin to evolve. “They are looking at’Princess Switch: Switched Again’and discovering’Chelbourg’s Umbrella’,” she said.

The shift to a younger user base means that Letterboxd is finally starting to expand outside the niche of hardcore movie fans. Over 1 million new users in 2020 represent many who are “not strictly cinephilia.” .. This growth has brought the platform to a new level of success and Buchanan sees even greater potential. “For example, we have tens of millions of Netflix users. We know that we don’t appeal to all Netflix users, but we also know that there is a growing desire for movie content.”

The surge in growth suggests that while the film industry has been devastated in many ways by blockade orders and pandemic tragedy, the film culture itself is still thriving. We may not be able to go to the movies, but as the success of letterboxing shows, we still want to talk about them.

Is letterboxing becoming a big hit?

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