Is letterbox becoming a blockbuster?

At the beginning of the last decade, Matthew Buchanan And Carl von Rando, web designer based in Auckland, New Zealand, was seeking a passion project. Their business, a boutique web design studio called CactusLab, develops apps and websites for various clients, but they wanted a project of their own that their team could overcome when there was so much to do was not.

Buchanan had an idea for the social media site about the films. At that time, he reflected, he used Flickr To share photos and Lastfm To share your taste in music. IMDb There was a database; It was not social, in short. This left a gap in the field. The result was an app and social media network Letterboxd, Which describes its website as, aptly, “Goodreads for the film”.

After being presented at the Web conference Brooklyn Beta in the fall of 2011, Letterbox developed a modest but passionate following for film fans eager to continuously track their movie viewing habits, list favorites and write and publish reviews. . However, in 2020, the growth of the site was explosive. Letterbox has seen its user base nearly double since the onset of the epidemic: they now have more than 3 million member accounts, according to the company, Up from 1.7 million at this time last year.

And it’s not just more users. It’s more of use: “We’ve seen more activity per member,” Buchanan said in a recent Zoom interview. “Our metrics are across the board.” Advertising and alternative paid subscriptions increase their revenue, providing users with additional features. The company is no longer only Buchanan and Von Rando’s side project, and over the past year, they have brought in a number of full-time employees.

The epidemic has devastated the film industry, as theaters have mostly closed down and will be high-profile blockbusters such as “Tenet” that have underperformed. For Letterbox, all that time at home has been a boon. “We like to talk about films,” said Gemma Gracewood, letterbox’s editor in chief. “And we’re talking more about what we love lately because we’re all indoors.”

In the beginning, Letterbox primarily attracted film passions: hard-core cinephiles, statistic fanatics and professional critics to view his published work under one roof. Mike d’AngeloA longtime contributor to Entertainment Weekly and Esquire, he had seen every film since January 1992, using Letterbox. Off-the-cuff muscle.

“If I’m writing a professional review, I’m writing for a general audience,” he said in a recent phone call. “On Letterbox, I don’t worry about pro form things like plot synopsis. I make jokes and references that you need to have a fairly deep film knowledge to understand. I find it much more liberating.”

She writes a kind of Wild-West quality on the Freedom letterbox. What leads to the top of the site’s page Most popular reviews Wildly Range: It features obscure memes, diaristic essays and spreading screws packed with pseudo-academic jargon. You might feel Breathless political rules written: “Nothing is known in this world as the most destructive action in the world, and the source of more war, death and exploitation, ever since chattel slavery was born, imperialism the highest, most gruesome, most of capitalism. There is a frightening aspect, and let us resist it. ”(This is, of course, a review of” Wonder Woman “) or you might get the same cryptic sentence, like One of the most popular reviews of the site Film “Joker”: “This happened to my friend Eric.”

The letterbox’s lonely, whatever-it-takes feeling can be turned off: D’Angelo confesses that he’s “crazy” when authors “use all lowercase” or “use common grammar or punctuation marks” From “, which is often on site. But the lack of rules or structure can lead to some interesting, unconventional criticism, and gives a stage to voices that might not otherwise be heard. On Letterbox, you can not only discover new movies to watch, but also follow new critics.

Sidney Wagner, a mother in rural Texas, began using the letterbox in late 2012. Under username @campbart, She has written vivid, free-form reviews (almost exclusively in lowercase), including sci-fi, horror and action films A heartfelt masterpiece about “minions” She reads like a poetic song for her daughter. “I’ve written that way because that’s what I like to read,” she said recently. “I find criticism very boring unless it has a personal aspect.”

Wegner said that he “never intended to write professionally”, but as his account began to gain followers, he soon found himself fielding requests for paid work as a critic had got. She appeared as a guest on the film podcast, did introductions to film screenings and was commissioned by editors on several film review websites, such as Film freak central.

Lucy joined Letterbox in May 2015, and today she is one of its most popular Users, With about 60,000 followers. The 26-year-old lives with her family in her hometown in Illinois, where she works in a movie theater, and spends her free time watching movies and writing about them on a letterbox.

Although May stated that she is “a debut and fan of the film,” and is not a professional, she now considers herself a critic. “I would call myself a critic of the letterbox era,” she said. This “modern wave of criticism” on the letterbox is interesting, “because a lot of the old rules are being thrown out the window.”

“There is less shame now when lower ratings are handed over to acclaimed older films, and more love to hang around for things like rom-coms,” she said. “I think honesty on the letterbox is attractive. I didn’t go to school to write or do anything, but I call myself a critic in that sense.”

The rise in the explosion of the letterbox is a truly youthful trend. On the app, which the company reports on how 75 percent of users use Letterbox, the largest demographic is for 18- to 24-year-olds. “There has been a huge increase in younger members,” Greenwood said. And he said that once they come on stage, these young members often soon begin to develop their taste. “They are searching for ‘The Princess Switch: Switched Again’ and ‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’.”

Buchanan pointed out that the move to a smaller user base means that Letterbox is finally starting to expand outside of the hard-core movie-buff niche – and in 2020 more than one million new users represent a lot of people Are, “which are not strictly cinephiles”. . Development has brought the stage to a new level of success, and Buchanan sees even more potential. Netflix, for example, has millions of users. We know that we are not going to appeal to every single Netflix user, but we also know that there is an increasing appetite for film content. “

The growth spurt shows that while the film industry has been devastated by lockdown orders in many ways and the epidemic, the crisis of film culture is still flourishing. We may not go to the movies, but as the success of Letterbox, we still want to talk about them.

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