Kiwi website is a box-office hit

LETTERBOXD: Social media platform for movie buffs.

LETTERBOXD: Social media platform for movie buffs.

A site for movie-lovers run from a small design company in Auckland is attracting thousands of members and millions of hits from around the world.

Letterboxd is a social media site that allows cinema fans to keep a public journal of their movie watching, share reviews and make lists. The site, which works like a cross between Facebook and book website Good Reads, went into beta testing in April 2012 with about 40,000 members and went live to the general public in February last year.

It now has 100,000 members across the world and 15 million page views a month.

In 2013, members wrote 670,000 reviews, rated 5.6 million films and wrote 1.8 million diary entries. The number of words written on the site has clocked 100 million.

The site was created by Matthew Buchanan and Karl von Randow as a side project for their design and development studio in Newmarket. The site covers its hosting costs with a premium service costing about $22 a year and some advertising.

Buchanan said the majority of website hits come from Europe and the US, with just one per cent of hits from Australasia.

He said Letterboxd was completely self-funded and they wanted to retain control of the site.

"It was self-started with my business partner based on an idea I had several years ago. I wanted a social site a bit like Good Reads that would work like Twitter, where you could follow people. What was out there didn't really work particularly well or handle the notion of film-watching in the way I thought it could be done.

"The word we hear most often is that the site is addictive. Once people discover it they are on it for a couple of hours."

"It is a slightly more intellectual crowd. There is a huge amount of great writing on the site. We are really proud of what has been on that site.

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"We divide our time between more effort into expanding features and the reach of Letterboxd while working with clients on design-related projects. It is not always easy to find time to put into it."

An iPhone app is being designed that Buchanan and von Randow hope to release this year. They hope to expand membership in the US and have formed partnerships with US film websites like The Dissolve and Film School Rejects.

"There's a lot of value in a community of 100,000 people. As that extends, the value of the product becomes more valuable. We are very excited about future growth and the potential that will open up, Buchanan said.

"We never hide the fact that we are not based in Silicon Valley, but we use American spelling because we know that's where most of our members are based."

 - Sunday Star Times


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