More than 17 years after first launching the game-changing festival submission service, Withoutbox announced today that it will be phasing out its services over the next year. Submission services will be disabled starting September 16, 2019, and access to Withoutabox will be disabled on October 30, 2019.
“We are working with current film festival customers to fulfill Withoutabox’s commitments through October 30, 2019 and are working with filmmakers to ensure their submissions are properly processed in this transition phase,” wrote a spokesperson for Withoutabox. “We are grateful to all the filmmakers who have shared their stories through Withoutabox and the film festivals who have discovered talented artists around the world using our service.”
In 2000 Withoutabox changed the way filmmakers applied to film festivals by creating a service where it was easier to find and apply to festivals – a one-stop site which had all the information and eligibility requirements for virtually all festivals and offered a streamlined submission process that made applying to multiple festivals easier. It also became the portal for festivals to communicate with applicants about rejections and next steps if they were accepted.
In 2008, Withoutabox was bought by IMDb, a subsidiary of Amazon. In the following years the company faced competition (most notably by FilmFreeway in the US) and complaints from filmmakers about its services, both of which resulted in the company losing its ironclad grip on the festival submissions market. In more recent years, Withoutabox placed a premium on locking up top festivals to long-term agreements that shut out competitors. At the same time the company vastly improved its product and worked with festivals to build an interface that was easier to navigate, for both festival and filmmaker, while delivering vastly improved video streaming.
The news comes as a surprise to many in the independent film world. Earlier this year IMDb and the Sundance Film Festival announced a three-year extension on their exclusive partnership to run through 2021. In the last 10 years, Sundance alone has received over 100,000 submissions from Withoutabox. IndieWire reached out to IMDb about the reasoning for shuttering Withoutabox, but did not receive an immediate reply.
Withoutabox is still taking submissions and allowing filmmakers to upload videos, but is recommending filmmakers also supply a Vimeo link so that festivals have more flexibility in watching the submitted film after Withoutabox has been shuttered.
Festival filmmakers with more questions about current Withoutabox submissions should visit this page.