The Letterboxd Story: A Site For Film Lovers & Film Listers Giving Indie Distributors A Hand – Specialty Preview

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A New Zealand-based platform where fans track, review and share lists of movies old and new is an increasingly influential marketing tool for specialty film with budgets tight and audiences harder to reach.

Letterboxd, founded as a passion project by Auckland tech entrepreneurs Matthew Buchanan and Karl von Randow just over a decade ago, recently passed 6.5 million members, with 40-50% in North America followed by the U.K., Europe and breakout markets including Brazil, India, Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines. It has 4.4 million monthly visitors and 800 million monthly page views.

Since launch, users have logged a whopping 1 billion films they’ve seen, put 300 million films on watchlists and posted 76.8 million reviews. Average time spent per visitor per month across web and app is about 40 minutes.

Letterboxd has been profitable since 2019, which is “source of immense pride,” Buchanan tells Deadline. The founders early on declined venture capital backing, he said, to be able grow the service at a pace they were comfortable with. It has nine full-time employees.

Users literally list all the movies they’ve seen and all the movies they’d like to see. They’ve created 8.6 million targeted lists from broad to micro: ‘Time travel films where the protagonist ends up either having to kill themselves or go right back to the start again, stopping the movie from ever actually happening’. Or, ‘All the times Hollywood made film adaptations of the first installment of a beloved young adult book series, except the film was so poorly received that they gave up on adapting the rest of the books despite foreshadowing and cliffhangers in the first film’.

David Larkin, the company’s New York-based head of business and strategy, says that all make the platform an effective place for targeted advertising.

“If you want to find people to watch Drive My Car, you don’t really care if they are 20 or 60,” although Letterboxd happens to skew young. “The common thread is that they want to see the film,” or happen to like similar films. “We start with some people in the bank.”

“With specialty, we know people have small budgets and there are not a lot of places they can productively place a small budget.”

The platform’s first partnership was with Neon for a campaign around the black-and-white theatrical release of Parasite in 2020. Larkin said it’s since worked on about 100 campaigns with indie distributors from IFC Films (The Watcher, Official Competition, Hatching), Kino Lorber (Neptune Frost, Wife Of A Spy), Janus Films/Sideshow (Drive My Car), Music Box Films (Medusa, Strawberry Mansion), Utopia (We’re all Going To The World’s Fair, Shiva Baby, a Rad restoration and most recently, Sharp Stick).

“We are huge fans. I first found them as a film fan myself, as a platform to log films,” said Kyle Greenburg, head of marketing and distribution for Utopia. “It’s an exciting and often still overlooked, but less so these days, social platform. The engagement can be really strong.”

Letterboxd can focus campaigns around users in NY and LA, help open a film in 25 markets, or nationwide, Larkin said. It invites partners to generate a list of movies with a similar “vibe or energy” to the one being released and targets those pages. It sends targeted, direct marketing emails, and it amplifies campaigns on its social media.

A service it offers premium subscribers it alerting when films on their watchlists become available to stream and where. And it is working on providing theatrical showtimes as well. “Now that more films are back in cinemas,” said Buchanan, “We are certainly starting to see the fruits of those relationships we built over the past two and a half years.”

Specialty openings this weekend:

A24 presents Halina Reijn’s horror comedy Bodies Bodies Bodies on six screens (before its heads to over 1,000 next weekend). Starring Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova, Myha’la Herrold, Chase Sui Wonders, Rachel Sennott, with Lee Pace and Pete Davidson.

When a group of rich 20-somethings plan a hurricane party at a remote family mansion, a game goes badly awry amid backstabbing, fake friends. Premiered at SXSW, Deadline review here.

Magnolia Films presents I Love My Dad, winner of the 2022 SXSW Grand Jury Prize for Narrative Feature, on 115 screens. Written and directed by James Morosini. Starring Morosini, Patton Oswalt, Claudia Sulewski, Lil Rel Howery, Rachel Dratch, Amy Landecker and Ricky Velez. On demand August 12.

The film follows Chuck (Oswalt), a hopelessly estranged father who desperately wants to reconnect with his troubled son, Franklin (Morosini). Blocked on social media and concerned for his son’s life, Chuck impersonates a waitress online and starts checking in. But things begin to spiral when Franklin wants to meet her in person. Deadline review.

Vertical Entertainment presents Collide in 102 theaters. Directed by Mukunda Michael Dewil. Over the course of one fateful night in an LA restaurant. Hunter (Ryan Phillippe) finds himself on an awkward blind date with the captivating Tamira (Kat Graham), while a busboy (Dylan Flashner) and his girlfriend (Aisha Dee) are hiding mounds of cocaine to score a big payday, and outside, Peter (Jim Gaffigan) sits in his car observing his wife’s (Drea de Matteo) infidelity with the restaurant’s manager (David Cade). Though all strangers, their stories are weaved together as they hurl towards an explosive end. Streaming August 12.

Disney Original Documentary presents Mija in theaters in NY/LA/SF through August 11. All screening are free and first-come first-served. It will have an official Oscar qualifying run before it premieres on Disney+ on September 16. The Sundance selection and debut feature by director Isabel Castro follows Doris Muñoz and Jacks Haupt, two daughters of undocumented immigrants from Mexico, navigating careers in the music industry. Doris and Jacks bond over the ever-present guilt of being the first U.S.-born members of their undocumented families, the financial risks of pursuing their dreams and the pressure of success — which could mean the difference in their family’s hope for green cards reunification.

Janus Films presents a new 4K restoration of Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colors: White at Film at Lincoln Center, followed by restorations of Three Colors: Red August 26 and Three Colors: Blue in Sept. Also playing at arthouses in a dozen cities nationally. In the iconic 1990s Three Colors trilogy, Karol Karol (Zbigniew Zamachowski) is a Polish immigrant living in France. The hapless hairdresser opts to leave Paris for his native Warsaw when his wife (Julie Delpy) sues him for divorce (her reason: their marriage was never consummated) and then frames him for arson after setting her own salon ablaze.

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