Unboxing Letterboxd

Unboxing Letterboxd

Photo Credits: ALLYSON KO / AGGIE

A social media for movie lovers

Whether on TV, in a theatre or most commonly through an online streaming service, watching movies is a favorite pastime for most people. Beyond watching the film itself, one of the most exciting aspects of watching a movie is finding someone else to discuss it with. It not only opens up a conversation about enjoyable scenes but also invites people to discuss the topic of film in general. “Have you seen (insert film)?” is usually followed by the statement “You have to watch it.” Often though these conversations go unheeded and are filed away with all the other movie recommendations. Letterboxd, a social media app for movie lovers, offers a solution to this problem.

While websites such as Rotten Tomatoes, IMDb and Roger Ebert offer film reviews, lists and interactive qualities, their focus is not on creating a community of discussion. Created in 2011 and available to the public since 2013, Letterboxd is a free social media app that allows users to mark every film they have seen through a simple and entertaining process; members are provided with lists and pictures of popular films that can be easily modified and organized. The app also allows members to make their own lists, write reviews, keep a film diary and continue to add to their watchlist of films that they have not yet seen.

Regarding the social media aspect, Letterboxd allows members to follow friends, granting them access to their friends’ profiles of films, reviews, lists, watchlists and likes. The accessible, simple and familiar design of this app adds to its appeal; every movie is displayed the way it would be when scrolling through sites like Netflix or Amazon Prime.

Upon clicking on a film, members are taken to the film’s info page that provides ratings, summaries, reviews and its appearance on various lists. In addition, the app provides a “watched by” or “wants to watch” section if a friend has seen or wants to see that same film. For people interested in Auteur cinema or in watching films featuring a specific actor, the app has a search section of “cast and crew” that pairs with IMDb.

On the app’s home page is a list of that week’s popular films, friends’ viewing activity, recent news and reviews, and trending film lists. Some examples of the entertaining and specific lists on the app include “Befriending the lyrical loneliness… essential movies for lonely people out there if you want to feel something in the big big world,” “Frank Ocean’s Favorite Movies,” and “Foreign Cinema: A Beginner’s Guide” that all offer educational and entertaining niche categories.

With the rise of movie accessibility through various streaming services, it’s often easy to feel overwhelmed with the amount of content being offered. While Apple Music, Spotify or Soundcloud serve as a synthesis of social media and music streaming, streaming apps for movie watchers don’t offer this same social perk.

In many ways this makes sense because it takes a lot longer to watch a movie that a friend recommended than a song, what Letterboxd offers is a mode of organization that isn’t as commonly found with films. Being able to document which films one has watched as well as mark certain movies as favorites to be displayed on their profile gives Letterboxd a more personal feel. In addition, the app has a growing database of over 200,000,000 films marked as watched.

Letterboxd continues to grow as members browse the app and find movies that they have seen or plan on seeing. In addition, Letterboxd has celebrity users such as Sean Baker, Director of “Starlet,” “Tangerine,” and “The Florida Project,” and Roger Avary, co-writer of “Pulp Fiction” and “Reservoir Dogs,” which suggests that eventually Letterboxd will grow to have more directors and actors involved.

What’s so enticing about this app is its appeal to a wide range of social media interests. In contrast to apps like Instagram and Facebook, Letterboxd doesn’t emphasize the amount of followers each profile has but instead allows members to comment on lists or write reviews that others can read. It serves as an interactive community rather than focusing on an aestheticized image or set of curated interests. Letterboxd relies on users to add all of the films they have seen, offering a chance to track one’s wide accumulation of films. Regardless of dedication to watching and documenting films, Letterboxd offers features for everyone with a user friendly interface on both the phone and computer. It’s exciting, fun and brings organization to the very overwhelming world of film and content.

Written by: Rosie Schwarz arts@theaggie.org