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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

How Do You Discover Movies?

Just a quick question for you...and perhaps you'll answer in the comments.

How do you discover new movies today, predominantly? If you think about the last few movies you've seen (whether in theaters, on DVD, via iTunes or BitTorrent), how did you hear about them? Was it via a Netflix suggestion, a Variety review, an e-mail or Tweet from a friend? (Or maybe even an old-school billboard or TV commercial?)

That is all - I'm eager to hear what you have to say.

(As for me, I think I mainly discover movies via reviews or stories in print media... from the NY Times to the New Yorker to Variety...though I hope to see a movie tonight that I discovered via Flixster, a nifty little app on my iPhone.)

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  • I taught a class at the New York Film Academy and asked this same question. The overwhelming winner from a poll of 30 students all in their 20s? Metadata and Recommendations. Pure and simple. They didn't care about critics or advertising. All they care about is: did a trusted friend or tastemaker suggest I see this? Or, does the title/synopsis/cast/crew/rating coincide with my own opinions or tastes?

    By Blogger Dentler, at 7:09 PM  

  • my USC class checked rotten tomatoes, most of them, but really picked up what they wanted to see through the ether. they couldn't say they went anywhere, or heard anything in a specific place. yes, friends and WOM. Nora sees movies on cable, rents them on Netflix. The other thing: she and the students are looking at movies new and old, often classics.

    it's my job to know about movies, but I do pick up a lot of stuff on facebook and twitter. and more of my friends are doing the IFC VOD thing. It's my job to go to screenings and watch screeners so I am unusual, finally.

    By Blogger anne thompson, at 7:16 PM  

  • Usually, I go by reviewers in the mainstream media -- particularly Joe Morgenstern at the WSJ -- and friends. However, with the exception of Morgenstern (with whom I am pretty much a kindred spirit), I try to read between the lines: what they usually like, I hate; what they hate, I usually like. So, if they are salivating over the nuanced (some people would say comatose) performance of Angelina Jolie, I know that I would probably not like that film -- although I might eventually give it a chance years from now once the hype and din have slowed down and I can view it on its own merits.

    I also go with my favorite people, directors and actors alike - who all tend to be iconoclasts: Scorcese, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Sean Penn, Clint Eastwood. Tonight will be the test: an Eastwood-directed movie featuring the aforementioned Ms. Jolie.

    I also lean toward independent movies (we used to call them art films in the day) -- before they get bought by the Weinsteins et al.

    Some favorites of late: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and Away from Her. Brilliant, story-focused filmmaking.

    By Blogger Janice L. Brown, at 8:15 PM  

  • a few ways - reading the globe reviews and the globe national-reviewers grid summary, seeing what's at the kendall and reading reviews linked from google movies, seeing listings on and clicking on the reviews - or browsing to see what's at the independent movie houses ...

    most important factor for me is whether certain reviewers liked the movie (globe/nytimes/etc.). second would be director, then a distant third would be genre/theatrical preview. if a few good reviewers liked a movie a lot, i'm almost guaranteed to see it. i'll also go see just about any science fiction movie that gets halfway-decent reviews - though i'm usually disappointed with this strategy!

    By Blogger Chris, at 8:20 PM  

  • I agree with Dentler's comment. However, I do listen to a couple of movie critics to sometimes decide whether a movie is "theater worthy" or not (doesn't mean I won't watch it at all). But bottom line is, if I've read about it in my screenwriters magazine (or other reliable source), it's spiked my interest for some reason, AND enough film peers mention the name, I'll probably hunt it down eventually. And, with the influx of movies out there being made, it's helpful when it has a sticky name too! :)

    By Blogger Jentri, at 8:21 PM  

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    By Blogger Unknown, at 9:34 PM  

  • I think i enjoy finding new movie trailers more than the films themselves. Trailers have and always will be the best marketing a film can have. I've distributed films for the last few years so i'm sure that response is skewed but when recommending a film to a friend I always include a trailer. In terms of deciding what i'll actually go see... Rottentomatoes 100% Everything else is a netflix (or movie hop pick up)

    Love the site, keep up the great work!

    By Blogger Unknown, at 9:36 PM  

  • I think about this a lot because I think it's easy to forget that you are also a consumer when you work in the industry. I hear about films through my day-to-day work, particularly documentaries, but many of my discoveries are through blogs that I follow (and Facebook/Twitter) rather than purely personal recommendations. I spend a lot of time reading film blogs/tweets for work (honest guv) so I feel like I get a good lay of the land from the people I really trust.
    I love my Netflix queue not so much for discovering stuff but for reminding me to watch things. I always add a film to the queue as soon as I read/hear about it so that I will remember to check it out. I don't even get the films through Netflix a lot of the time but the queue is a great place to store my list.
    I usually only read a review (print or blog) AFTER I've seen a film as part of the process of digesting it, I hardly ever decide what to see based on reviews - it's more just the general conversation bubbling up that persuades me, or puts me right off. I never look at Rotten Tomatoes or sites like that though. I hate ratings.
    For someone who loves film, I don't go to see movies on the big screen nearly as often as I'd like to but I make sure I see the films I really want to see eventually (thanks to lists like my Netflix queue).

    By Blogger Unknown, at 11:13 PM  

  • I forgot some really important elements for me: curators, community and experience. I love Rooftop Films and Stranger Than Fiction in NYC for example - amazing films and perhaps more importantly, an amazing community. I'll go those events without even knowing what's screening and discover new work that way.
    As far as great curation goes, I love receiving my Wholphin DVD in the mail - I know I'll get to see some amazing short films I've never heard of.
    My favorite film festivals have the right mix of curation, community and experience too: True/False for example where buskers play before each film.
    Discovering great films and getting community/experience to boot is double-rewarding.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 11:29 PM  

  • I watch trailers. Hundreds of them. If a visual is unique and grabbing or the dialog is good, I might delve deeper....look at IMDB comments / Rotten Tomatoes / etc. Unfortunately 99% of the stuff isn't worth watching.

    Half the time I will buy the DVD to support the filmmakers rather than go to the theater or rent the film. If the film looks iffy, I'll get it from the library.

    Most of the time we re-watch movies from our own library.

    By Blogger GBH, at 11:41 PM  

  • newspapers, imdb, blogs, and some film school teachers.

    By Blogger diego cumplido, at 11:52 PM  

  • I read filmmaker, and a lot of blogs which i trust. Then i wait until two weeks after release until a bit of hype is gone and then I go...alone...with baited breathe.

    By Blogger David Geertz, at 11:56 PM  

  • Mostly reviews from online newspapers and magazines. I like getting suggestions from Netflix but their recommendations are sometimes just a little off.

    By Blogger Mike Vogel, at 1:32 AM  

  • Of course IMDB power search...enter the current year...filter for >1000 votes and sort by rating.


    One rule:
    If its rated below 6, its crap.
    If its rated high, you still might not like it - but its worth viewing.

    Comedies are always rated too low.

    (Okay that were three rules)

    By Blogger BURRITO78, at 4:34 AM  

  • I read David Hudson's The Daily:

    I have various YouTube Channels that let me know cool films to watch.

    I read Aaron Hillis on:

    And I peruse the trailers:

    Also, there's a few critics that I've learned if they hate something, then it means I'll love it. So I have to read those critics.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 8:30 AM  

  • I rely on word of mouth, the NY Times reviews (often I go just to spite Manola Dahrgis) and occasionally rotten tomatoes, especially for summer blockbuster-type flicks.

    By Blogger GingerSpice, at 9:25 AM  

  • Friends, the magical interwebs :), and sometimes a combination of the two. Just last night at dinner we were talking movies; I mentioned I was interested in the latest Pixar and Terminator films, which I'd found out about online. posts trailers, as does and posts tons of clips; I'm still working my way through the Terminator ones. I also love, love, love Anthony Lane's reviews in the New Yorker. I mostly read these online and if I'm looking up an older movie on Rotten Tomatoes I'll see if he's written it up. I like certain directors, like Wes Anderson, and certain actors, like Clive Owen and Philip Seymour Hoffman and Kate Winslet so I tend to keep up on what they're working on. And I read Entertainment Weekly at the gym; I think they have smart things to say about film.

    By Blogger McPolack, at 9:44 AM  

  • I'd say 50% from trusted critics/bloggers (such as Mr Hudson), 35% from Netflix recommendations, and 15% from trailers.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 9:49 AM  

  • I'm really hooked on watching trailers at home w my Apple TV

    By Blogger John J. Wall, at 9:56 AM  

  • I actually pay attention to what one of the critics in the local newspaper (San Francisco Chronicle) says--not so much about new films as about recommendations of DVDs of foreign films, classics, etc. I also am an old-time film buff, so some of what I watch are films I've already seen years ago or films by directors I'm fond of that I haven't seen yet. Occasionally I will see something that a friend or acquaintance raves about as well. I have no problem finding films I want to see with a Netflix Que of 400 or so; the problem I have is finding time to watch them all.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 10:09 AM  

  • 3 ways:

    1. Online media - for mainstream and studio indie fare I read newspaper reviewers online (particularly, the SF Chronicle online, mostly because I grew up with those reviewers so I know who I agree with and who I don't - negative reviews by certain reviewers I see as positives for the film), larger blogs (cinematical, etc) and for my geeky side Ain't It Cool. For smaller indie fare I read blogs more focused on those films.

    2. Personal Recommendations - not programmatic such as Netflix or Amazon, but actual conversations with friends, co-workers, etc. I try to work the old "Seen any good movies lately?" line in to as many conversations as I can. It sounds a bit trite but I've found some gems I never would have heard of that way.

    3. HD VOD/Cable - I hardly ever get to the video store anymore but I used to go often with no film in mind and just scan the shelves looking for something to jump out at me. Now I have an HD TV and Comcast cable with all the movie channels and VOD, but no Blu Ray player. So for HD movies every Sunday I scan the HD listings for all the movie channels for the coming week to see if anything jumps out at me to record, and on a given night when I want to watch a film and have no specific one in mind I'll scan the HD VOD listings to find something I may not have heard of or may have forgotten about and wanted to see. It's a virtual aisle walk.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 11:20 AM  

  • I work at an art school, so I'm luck in that I hear about new and interesting non-mainstream movies through students and colleagues. I also learn about films through articles in the New Yorker or when I visit the NetFlix web site to update my queue. Old fashioned word-of mouth and F2F technology seems to works best for me. Sometimes I will learn about a film reading a blog post or through email. Some of the the most interesting films I've seen recently came from browsing through the Netflix web site (e.g. The Sensation of Sight (2006, Aaron Wiederspahn), but it's not the best experience, I really wish Netflix had a better interface designed to help Netflix subscribers find new films.

    By Blogger David Tames, at 1:35 PM  

  • Surprisingly, the predominant way I still find out about films is via the NYTimes. Mainly the print version, although sometimes I peruse the website, especially their special features sections. Other than that, through trailer sites like Apple and Trailer Addict.

    It's interesting that while my film viewing habits have changed (Internet TV and IPTV as opposed to blockbuster or catching a film on the hour) my film research habits have not. Very few film critic bloggers write with the wit and intelligence of AO Scott.

    By Blogger FilmFlam, at 1:42 PM  

  • I can't think of the last time I heard about a new movie from anywhere but the online movie news sites I read. Aintitcoolnews, Chud, Hollywood-Elsewhere, /Film all cover mainstream and "independent" (whatever that means) releases long before they hit screens, whether it be with bits of news from the production or early test screenings.

    I haven't learned a film was being released in my area later than two weeks before since I was 15 years old.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 4:17 PM  

  • A combination of Netflix, blogs, and word of mouth. But the word has to be from a trusted cinephile source, not my friend B., for whom the last movie he saw is always the best.

    By Blogger Jim, at 4:27 PM  

  • I have the best luck finding out about movies from exploring Netflix. Once I've found out about a movie, I'll often go see what Rodger Ebert has to say about it. In getting prepared for an MFA film program at American University and for a TAship/fellowship at the Center for Social Media, I've also been following many more news and blog feeds than I used to. I also notice that I now tend to trust Netflix and IMDb ratings as much or more than many reviewers.

    By Blogger Matthew Gordon, at 4:29 PM  

  • Friend recommendations; I also check my favorite theaters to see what they are showing (BAM, Landmark Sunshine, Angelika, Film Forum, Brooklyn Heights, Clearview Chelsea, Quad.) Chk Rotten Tomatoes - but never read full reviews before I've seen the movie. Then, always read The New Yorker, which I agree with 90% of the time; I almost never agree with the NYT.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 7:27 PM  

  • Scott there was 2 interesting studies done that speak to this issue fairly directly but before social media had really hijacked such a large section of the filmgoing population...(both of which unfortunately I can't footnote right now but you can probably find them) the first (the results of which has been reproduced several times) found that most people found out about new movies commonly through TV, commercials and trailers.
    The second study three years ago was on the tivo...where they removed commercials...and people were frustrated/missed the commercials because it is the predominant way they find out about new guess is that would include films.

    By Blogger Beo, at 7:29 PM  

  • Also, Apple trailers. A lot.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 7:40 PM  

  • one place -- recommendations from trusted sources. Like many, I've got my own micro-network of friends, colleagues and collaborators curating recommendations to me one way or another -- via facebook and twitter, as well as in person (aka Twitter 3D). I can't say I consider something like Netflix's recommendation engine the same way, as I've noticed I'm much more skeptical of that and give much, much more weight to a "hey check this out" coming down my feed on facebook.

    And I must say i still do a lot of digging on my own as well. there is a web site called that i frequent to find out what international titles are new to dvd in different countries. it's how I first stumbled across Lukas Moodysson and Nuri Bilge Ceylan.

    By Blogger Zak Forsman, at 8:04 PM  

  • Gotta be honest, the last few were netflix recommendations. At least the ones that I didn't work on or were worked on by friends.

    By Blogger Ryan The DP, at 11:59 PM  


    By Blogger Unknown, at 7:37 AM  

  • have to say online services are having one holdback on these issues that tech and web dev are not taking into account... over and over... the majority of the film and tv going population is still not social media and web development community savvy. They get their info still from TV. Most people do not search to find info on new movies... they bump into them doing something passive with no interactivity..."non participatory" -as much as web dev and tech experts like to make it sound like everyone is yearning for interactivity and comfortable sitting hunched over a keyboard

    By Blogger Beo, at 8:00 AM  

  • Many ideas for watching movies come from my RSS-feeds and my FilmTiki- Twitter nowadays. Some friends also talk about movies on Facebook, but i also get movie-infos the "old school" way, like on Radio FM4 (Austrian Radiostation) and magazines. And of course while i'm researching for my job at

    By Blogger FilmTiki, at 4:30 AM  

  • For the past six months I've been listening to the Slashfilm Podcast, which is where I hear a lot of great recommendations. I'll also find films by reading Movemaker Magazine and blogs like

    By Blogger Clint, at 3:26 PM  

  • Being a commoner who does not work in the industry, and hasn't been to the theater in over a year, I pick my movies based on trailers and previews when I rent from Netflix. The convenience of being able to add them to the queue as soon as I see a preview I like prevents me from forgetting the name of the movie. Occasionally I'll add a movie a friend recommends - unless I forget the name of it by the time I go online to update the queue.
    The Netflix "Movies You'll Love" function is hit or miss, so I rely on the trailers there also.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 1:04 PM  

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