Limelight: Make Movie Watching Social Again

I love movies. In fact, I used to write about movies all the time on my personal website before that writing started landing me freelance work. As a single male and an aspiring screenwriter, I love movies so much that I’m practically dating my film collection. (Note to self: That could explain why I’m single. I should look into that.)

My problem is that my film watching has always been inherently isolating. I tend to watch movies alone because most people I know don’t share my taste: I enjoy hidden gems like Brian de Palma’s Blow Out more every single viewing, but I could skip movies like Pain & Gain altogether (and do). It’s hard for me to find people with similar taste, but Limelight has a solution: it’s making my movie watching social.

Like the article? You should subscribe and follow us on twitter.

Browsing Movies

Limelight has very few barriers to entry. You don’t create a profile or fill in a bio. All you need is a username, which you can share via email, URL or social networks like Facebook and Twitter. After that, it’s all about telling people what you watch and following other people’s watching habits.

You can browse movies by Popularity and Rating as well.

You can browse movies by Popularity and Rating as well.

You can browse films by genre or popularity, or you can browse other users’ libraries (the app does suggest a few if you’re not sure where to start). You can also search for films specifically. The movie library comes mostly from Themoviedb.org, which is a community-powered service. So if you tap on a film to view more information, you’re presented with cast, crew, trailers and user ratings directly from that site. And any rating you give a film in the app contributes not just to average ratings across but Limelight, but also back to Themoviedb.org.

If you add an unreleased film to your watch list, Limelight will send you a notification the day before its release.

Fresh or Rotten?

Movies are presented in shelves, not unlike iBooks or Newsstand. Tapping on them reveals a gorgeous little interface filled with tons of information about the movies. Rotten Tomatoes scores are present alongside user scores, but the developer tells me their stringent API only allows him 10,000 calls to their website a day. By evening, I usually find that those calls have been used up by users and then the Rotten Tomatoes score is no longer visible. The developer is trying to find an alternative solution to the problem.

The app only gets access to Rotten Tomatoes so many times in a day.

The app only gets access to Rotten Tomatoes so many times in a day.

Visually though, the app is a beautiful thing. It’s easy and fun to use. The interface is great. It’s a fresh and dynamically interesting way to check out movies you want to see and share your movie watching habits with friends. If you want to watch a movie, you can add it to your in-app watch list. If you’ve seen a movie, just give it a rating and let the world know what you think.

Seen It? The Social Movie Game

After you rate a movie, your followers are notified of your score. If somebody you follow rates a movie, you’re notified of their rating. The idea is simple: if you both recently saw Iron Man 3 and you loved it but your friend Gene hated it, now have something to talk about that you might have otherwise missed.

Any time somebody you follow rates a movie, you'll see a notification like this.

Any time somebody you follow rates a movie, you’ll see a notification like this.

Recently, I saw Star Trek Into Darkness with a friend. We both use the app, and when we walked out of the movie theatre, she talked about how much she enjoyed the movie — I think she liked it more than I did. When I rated it, I gave it four stars. When she rated it, she gave it two and a half. Not only that, but according to her watch list, she hasn’t seen Life of Pi! So not only did I send her a message about her Star Trek rating, but now I’m subtly mentioning I’ve got Life of Pi on Blu-ray and she needs to check it out.

If you get the app and you’re looking for somebody to follow, my username is nathansnelgrove and I’ll follow back.

Of course, I keep up with a few people on Limelight that I don’t know in real life. Usually, we have similar taste. I follow the developer of the app, who gave The Hangover: Part III one star out of five. I know, based on our somewhat similar taste, that I should probably avoid it. (Oliver, if you’re reading this, thank you for saving me $12.)

The Nitty Gritty Details

Limelight gets a lot of really small details right. There are no user reviews, only star ratings. This makes it easy to keep up with people you follow and encourages real conversation. The interface makes it as simple and intuitive as possible to actually find movies you might be interested in seeing.

I totally saw this. I thought it was good.

I totally saw this. I thought it was good.

Smartly, tapping on a movie shows a plot overview, a small smattering of trailers and the Rotten Tomatoes consensus about the film. Basically, this is everything you’ll need to figure out if you’re interested in seeing a movie or not. You can swipe to the left to view cast and crew, and tapping on a cast member brings up his or her biography and filmography.

Cast and crew notes are included in the app, as well as a selection of similar movies.

Cast and crew notes are included in the app, as well as a selection of similar movies.

There are a couple curious little details missing that I wish were present. If I’m looking at an actor (or director’s) filmography, it’s presented alphabetically instead of by year. I’d prefer to see their most recent work first and their earliest work at the bottom (not unlike IMDB).

These are the movies Limelight thinks is similar to Star Trek Into Darkness.

These are the movies Limelight thinks is similar to Star Trek Into Darkness.

I’d also like the ability to search for movies by director or actor. How many times has a friend said to you, “Have you seen the latest movie from Matt Damon?” I don’t know. I don’t have a title, and I can’t find it by searching for Matt Damon in Limelight.

Go Ahead. Make My Popcorn.

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend with movie-watching becoming a more solitary thing. Thanks to home theatres and Netflix, I find myself watching movies alone a lot more often than I used to. That being said, Limelight proves to be an invaluable service to me. It’s a great way to keep up with my friends’ watching habits and find movies some of us haven’t seen yet to watch together, and it’s also a great way to clear that list of movies they keep recommending to me out of my Wunderlist queue. Limelight has quickly become my favourite movie-related app on my iPhone, and I’ve got a lot of them. I couldn’t recommend it more strongly.


Summary

Limelight is a delightful way to keep up with the movies you and your friends are watching. I wish I could search for movies by searching for actors or directors, but that's such a small complaint.

9