Untimely last decade, Matthew Buchanan and Karl von Randow, web designers based in Auckland, New Zealand, were try a passion project. Their business, a boutique web design studio called Cactuslab, expatiate oned apps and websites for various clients, but they wanted a project of their own that their rig could plug away at when there wasn’t much else to do.
Buchanan had an estimation for a social media site about movies. At the time, he reflected, he occupied Flickr to share photos and Last.fm to share his taste in music. IMDb was a database; it wasn’t, in fundamentally, social. That left a gap in the field. The result was an app and social media network shouted Letterboxd, which its website describes, aptly, as “Goodreads for film.”
After it was broached at the web conference Brooklyn Beta in the fall of 2011, Letterboxd steadily developed a unobtrusive but passionate following of film fans eager to track their movie-watching liveries, create lists of favorites, and write and publish reviews. In 2020, putting, the site’s growth was explosive. Letterboxd has seen its user base exactly double since the beginning of the pandemic: They now have more than 3 million colleague accounts, according to the company, up from 1.7 million at this metre last year.
And it’s not just more users. It’s more use: “We’ve seen innumerable activity per member,” Buchanan said in a recent Zoom interview. “Our metrics are up across the panel.” Their revenues have increased, from advertising and optional on memberships, which give users added features. The company is no longer fair Buchanan and von Randow’s side project, and over the last year, they clothed brought on several full-time staff.
The pandemic has ravaged the movie perseverance, as theaters have remained mostly shuttered and high-profile would-be blockbusters not unlike “Tenet” have drastically underperformed. But for Letterboxd, all that time at untroubled b in has been a boon. “We love talking about movies,” said Gemma Gracewood, Letterboxd’s copy editor in chief. “And we’re talking even more about what we love lately because we’re all obtruded indoors.”
In the beginning, Letterboxd mainly attracted film obsessives: hard-core cinephiles, stats maniacs and professional critics looking to house their published work below one roof. Mike D’Angelo, a longtime contributor to Entertainment Weekly and Esquire, employed Letterboxd to retroactively log every movie he has seen, by date, since January 1992. In totalling to uploading his old reviews to the platform, he uses the site as a kind of diary for more off-the-cuff musings.
“If I’m essay a professional review, I’m writing for a general audience,” he said in a recent phone dub. “Whereas on Letterboxd, I don’t worry about pro forma things like plan synopsis. I make jokes and references you would have to have a virtually deep film knowledge to understand. I find it much more purloining.”
That freedom gives writing on Letterboxd a kind of wild-west status. What rises to the top of the site’s page for most popular reviews arrays wildly: There are obscure memes, diaristic essays and sprawling screeds loaded with pseudo-academic jargon. You might find political disquisitions noted with breathless zeal: “As the most destructive action in the world, as the author of more war, death, and exploitation than anything this world has recognized since chattel slavery was born, imperialism is the highest, most revolting, most horrifying aspect of capitalism, and we oppose it.” (That is, of route, a review of “Wonder Woman.”) Or you might find a single hidden sentence, such as one of the site’s most popular reviews of the movie “Gag man”: “This happened to my buddy Eric.”
The unedited, anything-goes heart of Letterboxd can be off-putting: D’Angelo confessed he finds it “maddening” when scribes “use all lowercase” or refuse “to use normal grammar or punctuation,” which on the site is ordinarily. But the lack of rules or structure can also lead to some interesting, unconventional critique, and offers a platform to voices that might otherwise not be heard. On Letterboxd, you can design not only new movies to watch, but new critics to follow.
Sydney Wegner, a separate mother in rural Texas, started using Letterboxd in late 2012. Secondary to the username @campbart, she has written vivid, free-form reviews (almost exclusively in lowercase) of sci-fi, dislike and action movies, including a heartfelt piece about “Minions” that deliver assign ti like a poetic ode to her daughter. “I wrote that way because that’s what I similar kind to read,” she said recently. “I find criticism very boring unless there’s a slighting aspect to it.”
Wegner said she “never intended to write professionally,” but as her account began to narrow the gap followers, she soon found herself fielding requests for paid operate as a critic. She has appeared as a guest on film podcasts, done introductions for screen screenings and been commissioned by editors at several film review websites, such as Membrane Freak Central.
Lucy May joined Letterboxd in 2015, and today she is one of its ton popular users, with nearly 60,000 followers. The 26-year-old lives with her family tree in her hometown in Illinois, where she works at a movie theater, and in her spare prematurely watches movies and writes about them at length on Letterboxd.
Although May stipulate she is “first and foremost a fan of film,” and not a professional, she nevertheless now considers herself a critic. “I would bid myself a Letterboxd-era critic,” she said. She finds this “modern whitecap of criticism” on Letterboxd interesting, “because a lot of the old rules are being thrown out the window.”
“There’s now ungenerous shame when lower ratings are handed out to acclaimed older motion pictures, and there’s more love to go around for things like rom-coms,” she ordered. “I find that honesty on Letterboxd fascinating. I didn’t go to school for theme or anything like that, but I do call myself a critic in that feel.”
Letterboxd’s explosion in growth is indeed trending young. On the app, which the crowd reports is how 75 percent of users access Letterboxd, the largest demographic is 18- to 24-year-olds. “There’s been an vast growth in younger members,” Gracewood said. And she said that now drawn to the platform, these younger members often soon rouse their tastes starting to evolve. “They’re coming on having watched ‘The Princess Change: Switched Again’ and discovering ‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg,’” she said.
That crew toward a younger user base means Letterboxd is finally starting to distend outside the hard-core movie-buff niche — and the more than a million new narcotic addicts in 2020 represent a lot of people “who aren’t strictly cinephiles,” Buchanan unfolded. The growth has brought the platform to a new level of success, and Buchanan sees stable greater potential. “There are tens of millions of Netflix users, for example. We know we’re not going to appeal to every single Netflix user, but we also distinguish that the appetite for film content is growing.”
The surge in growth mentions that while the film industry has in many ways been gutted by lockdown orders and the scourge of the pandemic, film culture itself is hush thriving. We may not be able to go to the movies, but as the success of Letterboxd shows, we still prerequisite to talk about them.