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The Auteurs is Now Mubi

by Anne Thompson
May 13, 2010 5:09 AM
26 Comments
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Thompson on Hollywood

It had to happen. The cinephile site The Auteurs has changed its name.

When Turkish Silicon Valley technologist Efe Cakarel (a grad of MIT, Stanford and Goldman Sachs) launched The Auteurs ("Your online cinema, anytime, anywhere, watch, discover, discuss") in November, 2008, he started growing the subscription site with a core group of movie lovers. He did it because none of the sites offering movies on the internet "did it right," he says. Obsessed with the user experience, he wanted the site to feel "simple," he says, and he fussed over every line of copy and pixel. With help from investors Criterion and Celluloid Dreams, Cakarel grew the site to over 260,000 registered global members in 177 countries, from Australia, Canada, and Russia to Portugal and Benalux. (The U.S. commands 45 % of the site's members, followed by the U.K., but London just outpaced New York.) He also partnered with Martin Scorsese's World Cinema Foundation to bring classic films to movie lovers.

Having closed 90 distribution deals for 1200 films (Lars von Trier's Dancer in the Dark has been showing on The Auteurs in 150 countries), Cakarel kept realizing that many people had no idea what the word "auteur"--a French word for author that has come to mean a film director with a signature style--actually means. It was not accessible.

Cakarel wants to grow members into the millions. So he went on a quest for a new name. He called on ad agencies all over the world to find a simple, easily-typed name. "Find me my global brand, my Sony," he told them. It took nine months, but finally an agency in Tokyo knew they had found the name. Mubi.

The word "movie" is mispronounced in many cultures that have trouble with the letter V. It isn't a word in any language. It is a city in Nigeria. And Cakarel plans to make that city the movie-lover capital of the world.

Switching the site over on May 13--285,000 pages had to be redirected at once to Mubi--was a logistical nightmare. But Cakarel bought the domain name on Monday and made the change. "The vision is to make the best films ever produced available globally in every language," says Cakarel. "It's a good vision. We're going to get there." While Mubi is still cash-flow negative, Cakarel expects to turn the corner within the year. The site is sponsored by Stella Artois, and sells advertising.

Here in Cannes, Cakarel has a competition going for filmmakers. He arranged with the Short Film Corner, which boasts 1200 filmmakers, for a jury to pick 300 contestants from their idea pitches for a three-minute HD Flip Cam short to be filmed during the festival. The winner will be chosen on May 21 and will win 3000 Euros (second-place gets 1000, third, 500) and will pitch a film idea to French sales co. Celluloid Dreams' Hengameh Panahi.

Recently, Mubi got together with the Sao Paulo Film Festival to stream their movies during the fest. 20,000 people in 120 cities in Brazil came to the site to watch movies. Cakarel hopes to continue that effort with fests such as Tribeca.

In other news: Mubi is going to make available on its site some 40 films of Agnes Varda. Other name directors who own the rights to their films will follow, Cakarel says--he's already negotiating. Another major partnership will be announced in Cannes on Tuesday, which will exponentially grow the site, which Cakarel expects to burst into the millions in the next year.

If it does, than mark my words, Mubi could be the site that turns the corner for digital distribution that so many people are waiting for: the one that has enough critical mass to bridge the marketing gap that bedevils so many tiny movies seeking a meaningful identity.

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More: Festivals, Web/Tech, Digital Future, Cannes

26 Comments

  • Isaac | October 6, 2010 5:28 AMReply

    Yup, and everyone (me included) *hated* the name "Wii" ("What does it mean?" "It looks ridiculous on the page?" "Who would buy a 'wii,' anyway?" etc. etc.), when it replaced the code name Revolution. We felt insulted, slighted and predicted that this ridiculous name would be the end of this exciting new piece of technology before it had even begun. Fast-forward five years to 2010 and... well, let's say Nintendo's doing alright.

    Still, love it or hate it, if you give up on the whole endeavor because of the name change, isn't that a little, um... shortsighted?

    Not to mention that the idea that, because Cakarel wants to bring the films to millions rather than thousands, he is going to 'dumb down' (and, presumably, host only Michael Bay and Brett Ratner retrospectives) is elitist claptrap.

    What if Mr Cakarel happens to believe that there is a large *world-wide* audience who could fall in love with the same kind of left-of-field, foreign, obscure, experimental, just-plain-awesome movies we love? Or that maybe there are already millions of people in the world who do share that love?

    When I love a film, I want to shout it from the roof-tops and share it with the whole world, the more the merrier. Assuming that your 'good taste' in films is something that could only possibly have a limited audience is a large part of the problem. Expose enough people to different kinds of film, and you never know what they'll love and take up as their own, once they've been given a menu of choices wider than that the local multiplex provides.

    Or do you really think that the man who's about to become the next McDonalds of movie-rental is the same one who just acquired 40 new Agnes Varda films? Yeah, way to sell out, dude.

  • bob crane | June 5, 2010 4:20 AMReply

    mubi the new dimb.

  • mubigoer | May 18, 2010 3:08 AMReply

    Mubi is not Biutiful

  • cinephile | May 18, 2010 3:04 AMReply

    Mubi Dick

  • Cinefest | May 16, 2010 11:31 AMReply

    Word around Cannes is that Efe sold the site to Sony - they wouldn't buy unless they changed the name, so thus was born Mubi. It is only a matter of time before the content starts to change on 'Mubi', Sony will run things their way.

  • Stephen Dudding | May 16, 2010 8:14 AMReply

    Why is theire all this hysteria over a name? First, the site and services are wonderful; second most people had a real problem with the old name, and the new one is mor simple and accesible. Ah, but there's the rub! From the tone of most comments it seems that some people are annoyed that the elitism of the old site will be diluted; and for those of us who love cinema and appreciate the efforts of this site to make good films available to all this is all to the good. Congratulations on the change of name, and let's concentrate on what the site does rather than what it is called.

  • Venus | May 15, 2010 9:23 AMReply

    Hard to believe the same man responsible for creating the site, will also be the one responsible for destroying it- I predict a year of increased activity and then all will vanish and leave the wells dry- just like that sweet little Nigerian city that will magically become the movie capitol of the world.

  • via collins | May 15, 2010 7:48 AMReply

    people don't know what "the auteurs" means? gee whiz, what if those people actually went and like, discovered what it meant.

    what a patronising, misguided mess of a re-branding.

    horrible.

  • Auteur Age | May 15, 2010 7:24 AMReply

    Efe Cakarel & Co. won’t budge. They are going to stick with mubi.

    We did our best. It’s time to mourn the death of TheAuteurs.com.

    Result from the ballot: http://mubi.com/topics/9218?page=6

    I preferred “theauteurs.com”: (122)
    I prefer “mubi.com”: (1)
    I would prefer another name: (4)

    Comments on Efe’s ‘reasons’ for the name change:
    http://mubi.com/topics/9211

    Guys, fuck the auteurs, move on? It’s going to be a wasted effort. It’s ‘millions’ that matter. Not us.

  • Patrick Murtha | May 15, 2010 4:33 AMReply

    Now that they've dumbed down the name, how long before they start dumbing down the content? Probably not long.

  • michel esteban | May 14, 2010 12:14 PMReply

    I agree with all the complains, this marketing name SUCKS!! Come on it that so difficult for movie lovers to pronounce or understand "the auteurs" or are you looking for another audience for who you are making things easy to understand. That is what Hollywood is doing and this is the opposite of the Auteurs politics... Very disappointed !!!

  • Jim VB | May 14, 2010 10:41 AMReply

    Cakarel kept realizing that many people had no idea what the word “auteur”—a French word for author that has come to mean a film director with a signature style—actually means. It was not accessible.

    Yeah, right. Then fkn Google the word.

  • Samantha | May 14, 2010 10:35 AMReply

    Digital treason!

  • ginger Liu | May 14, 2010 7:00 AMReply

    When I received my MUBI email today I deleted it because I thought it was spam. I mean, WHY change such an amazing name for a film site? Well, I know a few Americans who don't know what an Auteur is, but still...

  • Film Fan | May 14, 2010 4:40 AMReply

    Also not a fan of the new name.

    When you look at it, it is a niche site. So, to get "260,000 registered global members" isn't a bad thing after a few months. That is something like ten times the circulations of Film Comment, Cineaste, and other serious film magazines.

    The site isn't catering to the multiplex crowd, it is going for the art house crowd, which isn't going to get you millions of readers.

  • jl | May 14, 2010 4:14 AMReply

    mubi = poopy

  • cinemaofdreams | May 14, 2010 2:55 AMReply

    This is the biggest marketing blunder I have witnessed. The Auteurs is a great site and had a great name. If they had to change the name they could have found something far better than this. It is insulting to say the least. But what can be done when greed and stupidity are the main driving forces in business today.

  • simao | May 13, 2010 12:34 PMReply

    I joined the Auteurs about a week ago, and it was the curiosity towards the name that appeared in a random google search that made me investigate: “a film community?” asked myself, and I gave it a try.
    Now, would a name like “Mubi” ring any bell on my head?: the sound, when you spell it, it’s not pleasant or inducing of any imaginary. Mubi is a silly, nauseating and dead word. Don’t these guys have any aesthetic taste

  • Stanley R. | May 13, 2010 11:56 AMReply

    Please, please, please! Enough with rebrandings. "The Auteurs" stood out as a film site indeed. "Mubi" does not mean or allude to anything - except perhaps to Asian people. Also, if you search "mubi," only Asian corporations show up. I think Cakarel should have kept "The Auteurs," as it is significant to the movie buffs. "Mubi" sounds like "Nuvi, the GPS system."

    Ah, this new name hurts my eyes.

  • Anti-marketing guru | May 13, 2010 11:49 AMReply

    My problem with the name is that it is almost completely antithetical to the notion of high art or being an auteur, to use their older identification. The artists the site celebrates are people who created works that defied marketing conventions and trends of the moment and forced people to see the world in a new light by dint of their originality. Relying on a marketing company to find a name that reeks of previous marketing campaigns and is entirely of the moment is exactly what the site is supposed to be against when it comes to film. It's hard to scorn test marketed and audience shaped empty entertainment product when those techniques are what the site itself is relying on. It infantilizes the sites audience in the same way the latest Hollywood buddy pick or rom-com caters to juvenile pleasures of their audiences. It's hard to imagine slogans saying "Watch Tarkovsky on MUBI" in a serious way, whereas saying "Check Out 17 Again" on MUBI seems a perfect fit.

  • MDL | May 13, 2010 9:11 AMReply

    Insane! Because Cakarel can't get figure out how to market a real word that has a specific meaning to people who love movies he hires a bunch of ad agencies to make up a fake name that sounds like baby talk.

  • auteur | May 13, 2010 8:31 AMReply

    This is the most idiotic, sell-out, lowest common denominator name EVER. The most obviously pure capitalist and brain dead marketing bullshit move a respectable site like The Auteurs could have ever made. IDIOTS.

  • aspect ratio | May 13, 2010 8:15 AMReply

    D'oh!

    The whole point of The Auteurs was that it was supposed to be a "snobby" film community for people interested in films beyond the Hollywood system. Foreign film, old films, etc. Yes, that would never reach millions, but those who went there knew what auteur means.

    And now it's got a new, dumb name and wants to appeal to the masses? Way to drive away everyone who came there in the first place, they came because all the other film message boards online are filled with idiots who only care about the latest big action movie.

    Why not simply make a spin-off site of The Auteurs that caters to the masses, but keeps this little pocket for "auteur" film geeks intact? They could've just simply used the same servers, same systems, same everything but kept them separate as two different sites. Film geeks could go to The Auteurs for grown-up film discussion, and everyone else could go to Mubi.

    Mubi, the sound you make trying to say "movie" while eating popcorn?

  • Michael | May 13, 2010 7:48 AMReply

    Fair enough, and I love the site, but I can't stand the new name. It just reeks of idiotic marketing. But I hope the site keeps growing.

    Any news on the Latin American launch? They were supposed to launch a LA version last year, but I haven't heard anything besides the SP Film Festival partnership.

    Also, it's São Paulo (not "Paolo"). It's annoying how many journalists don't bother looking up the spelling of one of the largest cities in the world!

  • Angry user of the ex-TheAuteurs | May 13, 2010 7:26 AMReply

    The new name sucks. Period. What a sell-out. The Auteurs stood for something.

  • James McNally | May 13, 2010 6:39 AMReply

    It's definitely the best-looking site of the lot. I hope that the name change can help it broaden its user base, though I hope they keep the focus on world and "art" cinema too.

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