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Letterboxd: Social website for film fans launches

April 24, 2012 |  5:22 pm

Letterboxd-home
These days there's a social website for every interest: Book lovers swap reading lists on Goodreads, foodies rate restaurants on Yelp and shutterbugs post photos on Flickr. Now the website Letterboxd, which launches today, offers a place for cinephiles to chronicle and discuss their movie-watching habits.

On a Skype call from New Zealand, co-founder Matthew Buchanan described Letterboxd as "a social site for sharing one’s taste in film."

Letterboxd users can keep an online diary of films they've seen and mark them with simple "likes" (as on Facebook), give star ratings from a half-star to five and write reviews. Films can also be saved to a watch list, a reminder for later viewing, as well as organized into user-created lists according to any topic.

The latter might be inspired by genre ("French horror new wave"), history ("Academy Award nominees for best picture") or an overarching theme ("Films that make you think about your place in the universe").

Users can also follow one another, much like on Twitter, to receive updates about others' opinions and activity.

The site is elegantly and intuitively laid out, populated by thumbnails of movie posters, each of which links to an individual page displaying reviews, ratings, movie trailers and tags for a film's director, cast members and year released.

Letterboxd began as a side project for Buchanan and co-founder Karl von Randow, who by day run a Web design and development studio in Auckland called Cactuslab.

When they initially conceived of the site, they thought of it as something they themselves would have liked to use but which didn't yet exist, so they went and built it. Despite the prevalence of social websites, Buchanan and Von Randow thought Letterboxd could fill a need.

"We didn’t feel that there was a focused outlet for sharing thoughts about films," Buchanan said. "And I think that as crowded as the marketplace is, it's still possible to find a niche."

After showing an early version of Letterboxd at the Web conference Brooklyn Beta in October, they began a private beta test. The test group has grown to about 17,000 users, who average 1.1 million page views per month. Buchanan expects those numbers to increase dramatically with the site's public launch.

Since October, the Letterboxd team has been busy refining the site and adding features, including integration with Netflix (allowing users to import their viewing histories, add films to their queues and launch streaming videos) as well as iTunes and Amazon (providing links to their video-on-demand services). In conjunction with today's launch, the site is also introducing Facebook and Twitter sharing features.

Membership is free, though Buchanan said the company may introduce premium paid accounts in the future. The site currently features minimal display advertising and also earns "a small amount of affiliate revenue from Amazon and iTunes links."

Further plans for Letterboxd, Buchanan said, include optimizing the site for mobile browsers and developing mobile apps. He added that the company is "very excited" about the prospect of working with studios and other content providers.

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—Oliver Gettell

Photo: The Letterboxd website. Credit: Letterboxd.com


 
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