What is Letterboxd? The Social Media Platform Going Mainstream

Catrina P. Smith

Early previous 10 years, Matthew Buchanan and Karl von Randow, internet designers dependent in Auckland, New Zealand, were trying to find a enthusiasm venture. Their organization, a boutique world wide web style and design studio referred to as Cactuslab, developed applications and websites for various customers, but they desired a venture of their have that their crew could plug absent at when there was not considerably else to do.

Buchanan experienced an notion for a social media internet site about movies. At the time, he mirrored, he made use of Flickr to share photographs and Final.fm to share his style in songs. IMDb was a databases it wasn’t, in essence, social. That remaining a hole in the field. The final result was an app and social media community termed Letterboxd, which its web page describes, aptly, as “Goodreads for movie.”

Right after it was introduced at the internet conference Brooklyn Beta in the slide of 2011, Letterboxd steadily created a modest but passionate next of movie enthusiasts eager to keep track of their motion picture-viewing behavior, build lists of favorites, and generate and publish evaluations. In 2020, having said that, the site’s growth was explosive. Letterboxd has viewed its user base nearly double since the commencing of the pandemic: They now have much more than 3 million member accounts, in accordance to the corporation, up from 1.7 million at this time last 12 months.

And it’s not just extra end users. It’s much more use: “We’ve found extra activity per member,” Buchanan said in a latest Zoom interview. “Our metrics are up across the board.” Their revenues have enhanced, from promotion and optional compensated memberships, which give consumers included features. The corporation is no for a longer time just Buchanan and von Randow’s side task, and around the final year, they have introduced on numerous entire-time staff.

The pandemic has ravaged the film marketplace, as theaters have remained mainly shuttered and higher-profile would-be blockbusters like “Tenet” have significantly underperformed. But for Letterboxd, all that time at property has been a boon. “We enjoy conversing about motion pictures,” stated Gemma Gracewood, Letterboxd’s editor in chief. “And we’re talking even additional about what we enjoy recently because we’re all caught indoors.”

In the beginning, Letterboxd mostly captivated film obsessives: difficult-core cinephiles, stats fanatics and specialist critics wanting to household their published operate under 1 roof. Mike D’Angelo, a longtime contributor to Leisure Weekly and Esquire, utilised Letterboxd to retroactively log each individual film he has witnessed, by day, considering the fact that January 1992. In addition to uploading his previous testimonials to the platform, he works by using the web-site as a variety of diary for a lot more off-the-cuff musings.

“If I’m crafting a experienced review, I’m producing for a basic audience,” he mentioned in a new cell phone connect with. “Whereas on Letterboxd, I really don’t fret about professional forma factors like plot synopsis. I make jokes and references you would have to have a reasonably deep film understanding to understand. I locate it substantially far more liberating.”

That independence gives composing on Letterboxd a sort of wild-west high-quality. What rises to the top rated of the site’s site for most popular opinions ranges wildly: There are obscure memes, diaristic essays and sprawling screeds packed with pseudo-tutorial jargon. You could possibly come across political disquisitions composed with breathless zeal: “As the most harmful motion in the globe, as the supply of more war, loss of life, and exploitation than anything this planet has known since chattel slavery was born, imperialism is the best, most vile, most horrifying aspect of capitalism, and we oppose it.” (That is, of class, a overview of “Wonder Lady.”) Or you could obtain a solitary cryptic sentence, this sort of as just one of the site’s most preferred assessments of the movie “Joker”: “This happened to my buddy Eric.”

The unedited, just about anything-goes spirit of Letterboxd can be off-putting: D’Angelo confessed he finds it “maddening” when writers “use all lowercase” or refuse “to use typical grammar or punctuation,” which on the web site is typically. But the deficiency of procedures or framework can also lead to some attention-grabbing, unconventional criticism, and delivers a system to voices that may possibly if not not be heard. On Letterboxd, you can find not only new films to look at, but new critics to adhere to.

Sydney Wegner, a single mother in rural Texas, started utilizing Letterboxd in late 2012. Below the username @campbart, she has published vivid, no cost-sort opinions (nearly completely in lowercase) of sci-fi, horror and motion films, together with a heartfelt piece about “Minions” that reads like a poetic ode to her daughter. “I wrote that way for the reason that that is what I like to study,” she reported a short while ago. “I locate criticism pretty dull unless there is a private component to it.”

Wegner stated she “never meant to produce skillfully,” but as her account commenced to achieve followers, she before long discovered herself fielding requests for paid function as a critic. She has appeared as a visitor on film podcasts, finished introductions for film screenings and been commissioned by editors at quite a few movie evaluation web sites, this kind of as Film Freak Central.

Lucy Might joined Letterboxd in 2015, and currently she is a person of its most well known end users, with nearly 60,000 followers. The 26-12 months-aged lives with her spouse and children in her hometown in Illinois, in which she is effective at a motion picture theater, and in her spare time watches motion pictures and writes about them at length on Letterboxd.

Though May explained she is “first and foremost a fan of film,” and not a professional, she nevertheless now considers herself a critic. “I would get in touch with myself a Letterboxd-period critic,” she claimed. She finds this “modern wave of criticism” on Letterboxd interesting, “because a large amount of the previous rules are currently being thrown out the window.”

“There’s now less disgrace when lessen rankings are handed out to acclaimed more mature films, and there is a lot more enjoy to go all over for points like rom-coms,” she stated. “I discover that honesty on Letterboxd intriguing. I didn’t go to school for writing or just about anything like that, but I do get in touch with myself a critic in that perception.”

Letterboxd’s explosion in growth is in truth trending younger. On the application, which the corporation studies is how 75 percent of users access Letterboxd, the major demographic is 18- to 24-12 months-olds. “There’s been an monumental development in younger members,” Gracewood said. And she stated that when drawn to the platform, these younger customers often soon find their tastes setting up to evolve. “They’re coming on having watched ‘The Princess Change: Switched Again’ and discovering ‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg,’” she explained.

That shift toward a youthful user foundation means Letterboxd is last but not least starting to develop outdoors the hard-core motion picture-buff market — and the much more than a million new customers in 2020 symbolize a large amount of people today “who aren’t strictly cinephiles,” Buchanan stated. The expansion has introduced the platform to a new amount of success, and Buchanan sees even increased opportunity. “There are tens of thousands and thousands of Netflix end users, for instance. We know we’re not heading to charm to every single single Netflix person, but we also know that the appetite for movie content is rising.”

The surge in development suggests that even though the movie sector has in numerous strategies been devastated by lockdown orders and the scourge of the pandemic, film culture itself is however flourishing. We could not be capable to go to the motion pictures, but as the achievement of Letterboxd exhibits, we nevertheless want to discuss about them.

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