This past Saturday, NYU undergrad Danny Fein launched Moviora, a movie recommendation website that functions slightly different from the collaborative filtering systems used by companies like Netflix and Amazon. The simple, easy-to-use format appears to appeal to movie fanatics, as the site made the top of the subreddit /r/movies.
Whereas Netflix’s collaborative filtering system of recommendation is a method of making automatic predictions about the interests of a user by collecting preferences or taste information from many users, Moviora focuses on your current mood to determine what movie to recommend while not limiting you to your past preferences or overall taste.
The homepage simply states “Let’s figure out what you’re in the mood for,” and then displays a single prompt at a time such as “Drama?” “Comedy?” “Thriller?” Users have the option to answer “Yes” or “No,” yielding more specific prompts like “Heroic Main Character?” or “Violent?” until the filter eventually makes a suggestion based on your answered criteria. The film suggestion includes a trailer, plot summary, Rotten Tomatoes score, as well as a link to the film on Netflix. The suggestion also includes other films that might be grouped with the ‘mood’ Moviora has boxed you into.
Like many start-up creators, Fein’s spark to create Moviora came through his attempt to solve a personal problem, i.e. what should he watch next? He realized it’s hard to determine what type of mood one is in when asked broadly, so he developed a program that mimics a 20 Questions-type game.
“I think people can easily decipher if they’re in the mood for a drama or action movie when prompted with basic yes or no questions,” he said in an email. “I didn’t want to create a website that just rotates trailers like other sites like What Movie Should I Watch Tonight. I wanted it to be geared toward the user.”
He explained that he doesn’t want to watch movies that sit within his taste realm, but rather be lead towards genres and titles that are totally new or foreign, while still fitting with his present mood. “With Moviora, there’s the possibility of landing on every movie ever created because this site doesn’t require licensing like Netflix, which is limited to its own database and licensing deals,” he said. The project is a gentle nudge in the right cinematic direction, not a source that's pushing you to watch one of its films.
The site's movie database is crowdsourced, which should help keep selections fresh. The Q&A aspect is also designed to prevent redundancy or questions that don’t make sense through an algorithm that provides the database with minute details. If you say that yes, you are in the mood for a war movie, the follow-up will then ask you if you’re in the mood for a World War II film. “There’s definitely a difference between a World War II film and Zero Dark Thirty,” said Fein.
When I tested out Moviora, I never received the same recommendation more than once, and the 20 Questions aspect made Moviora more fun than other recommendation systems. Sometimes I'd be suggested a film after six questions, sometimes after fifteen. The anticipation made the site more alluring than just putting my taste preferences into a database.
Fein said the website was created during a 18 hour coding binge, and he's continuing to make updates to the site as he gets feedback through sources like Reddit and through friends. He doesn’t plan on adding advertisements, but he’d like to turn the site into an app that’s as straight-forward as the site itself.
This isn’t Fein’s first web start-up. In 2011, the undergrad created a pop culture discussion board called OMG Wire that he said averaged about 200,000 unique visitors per month. He dropped that project (despite having interns) and started contributing on occasion to the Huffington Post before creating Moviora.