Pitchfork Media, the company behind the music site that all my cool friends used to read (I use the past tense because, like me, my friends have gotten old and uncool), just launched a new property — The Dissolve, a site that’s all about movies.
When I loaded up The Dissolve earlier today, my first feeling was one of familiarity. That’s usually not something you want in a new property, but in this case, it was good thing — I was happy to see the bylines of several writers I used to read at one of my favorite arts and entertainment sites, The A.V. Club. The Dissolve was founded by Keith Phipps, who previously edited The A.V. Club, its editor Scott Tobias was film editor at The A.V. Club, and yes, Phipps appears to have done a good job of bringing several of the writers from his old gig over to the new one.
Phipps told me that he started dreaming up The Dissolve after his departure from The A.V. Club in December. As he tried to figure out what he was going to do next, Phipps realized that what he was most excited about was “getting back into film” — movies are a big part of the coverage at The A.V. Club, but they’re mixed in with TV, music, and more. The Dissolve is aiming to be all movies, all the time.
Not that the Internet is exactly lacking when it comes to movie sites. Phipps said he thinks are “tons of great film websites” out there, but he had his own vision for “kind of a place to hang out and read about and talk about movies.” He noted that for many sites, there’s a bit of a “hype cycle,” where they’ll post every trailer and every piece of news or speculation about a big movie, but once it’s actually out in theaters, the discussion dies off.
“We’re not going to be out of the game entirely,” Phipps acknowledged, but he said he wants to dial the hype down a bit and mix things like posting trailers with in-depth discussions of movies old and new.
One example of that approach is a series called the Movie of the Week, where, as the name implies, The Dissolve will run a number of pieces throughout the week discussing different aspects of a single film. And it doesn’t look like these are going to be the latest blockbusters — the first selection is Repo Man, the second will be Zelig. You can read about some of the other planned features in Phipps’ “user’s guide.”
As for building a community, The Dissolve hasn’t done anything too novel on the tech side. it comments on stories, of course, and it also has what Phipps called “a very informal partnership” with movie rating service Letterboxd. Phipps added the he’s open to exploring other services that could be added, but he isn’t interested in building a separate forum or social network: “There are enough of those already.”
But given the proliferation of online film criticism, much of it done for free, isn’t the news- and aggregation-based model the one that makes economic sense? Phipps said that to a large extent, he lets other folks to handle the business side — though in the initial stages he did have to convince Pitchfork, particularly Pitchfork President Chris Kaskie, that The Dissolve could be a moneymaking proposition.
More broadly, Phipps quoted his aforementioned editor Scott Tobias and suggested that there’s “a real estate bubble when it comes to pageviews in film.” He said he’s discouraged when he sees “variations on the same story aggregated on linked to on every site” and that an approach that values pageviews and nothing else is “disastrous for creativity.”
“I hope we’ll build a quality audience that our advertisers think is worth reaching, rather than just going for the numbers,” Phipps said.