Letterboxd, an online haven for film nerds, gets a new owner

New York Times: Two Kiwis built a social network for movie buffs. Now, they're cashing in.

Letterboxd, an online haven for film nerds, gets a new owner

Matthew Buchanan and Karl von Randow are the founders of Letterboxd. They have sold a majority stake to Tiny Inc., a publicly traded company in Canada. Photo / Birgit Krisppner, The New York Times

Two designers from New Zealand created a social network that is incredibly popular among movie lovers. They're now cashing out (and staying around for the sequel).


Margot Robbie, the star of Margot Robbie, created a Twitter account. Ditto for Rian Johnson.

Knives out

Christopher McQuarrie's, Tom Cruise’s, directing partner has used to praise another action star, Sylvester Stallone.

Over the last decade, Letterboxd has become the go-to social network for movie nerds. It allows users to recommend and review movies. Approximately 10 million people use the service now to share their favorites: Do you like Studio Ghibli too? What's your favorite Spike Lee film?

Since its founding in 2011, the service hasn't undergone any major changes. Letterboxd will undergo two major changes in the near future: a change of ownership and a move to allow users to review and recommend TV shows.

The founders of Letterboxd, Matthew Buchanan & Karl von Randow announced on Friday that they are now a partnership.

Selling a majority stake to Tiny

A public company in Victoria (British Columbia). A person familiar with this deal, who spoke anonymously to discuss confidential financial data, estimated that Letterboxd was worth more than US$50,000,000 ($83,000,000).

Buchanan von Randow and two New Zealand entrepreneurs, Buchanan von Randow have some reassurances to offer their users, who might be worried about what a possible sale would mean for their little corner of the Internet. Both co-founders will remain shareholders and neither plans to leave anytime soon. The service will not change immediately. The idea to integrate TV is in its early stages, and the founders say they don't expect it to disrupt their current products.

Buchanan stated that these small changes make life easier and better.

Letterboxd has been growing quietly for years. It was a relative oasis in the social media quagmire. The popularity of the app soared after the Covid-19 epidemic. Letterboxd had over 4.1 million users registered by the end of 2021. This is up from 1.8 million in march 2020. Letterboxd currently has over 10 million accounts registered, with about half being active within the last 90 days.

Andrew Wilkinson (left), Austin Singhera, and Chris Sparling are Tiny's executives that led the acquisition of Letterboxd. Photo by Alana Paterson of The New York Times

Andrew Wilkinson - the founder of Tiny - contacted Buchanan via email in March, and in May made an offer to buy the company.

Buchanan und von Randow, who were reluctant sellers - they had raised no money and weren't looking for a buyer - said Tiny would be a good fit. Both businesses are run by designers who turned entrepreneurs. They met through Tumblr, and they speak highly of the Letterboxd community.

Tiny is a holding firm modeled after Warren E. Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. It was created by Wilkinson in 2014, when he had a difficult time selling his web design company. He was a former barista who said that he became inspired to build websites when some of his customers with laptops told him they were earning US$500 for each job. Wilkinson got an idea after his business was ruined by his acquirer.

Wilkinson stated, "I promised that when I had enough money I would be the buyer that I wished I could have sold my goods to."

Wilkinson does not plan to change Letterboxd's current business model. Members who wish to have extra services such as being able to choose their favorite posters for each movie and changing their usernames can pay US$19 (US$32) or US$49 (US$82) per year. The service also offers advertising, and has a team of journalists that produce a podcast to cover events in the entertainment industry.

Letterboxd has seen its business expand, and so has the staff. Buchanan stated that there were no full-time staff when the pandemic started. The site currently has 16 full-time and 12 part-time employees. This is a good time for the new owner to take over.

Buchanan added, "I think we are just waiting for the next level of support."

This article was originally published in

The New York Times

Written by: Benjamin Mullin

Birgit Krippner & Alana Paterson