Movies Are Better Together

Co-watching as an antidote to loneliness

Fiona Rayher
5 min readDec 16, 2020


A Hoovie screening in Vancouver, BC — part of a park series

The great paradox of the internet and social media is that they promised to bring the world together. We now know that these phenomenons have had the opposite effect: loneliness, division and polarization. I call it the “paradox of convenience.” Everything is available at our fingertips, yet we are lonelier than ever before.

The birth of our film-tech startup, Hoovie, has a unique origin story. The idea for Hoovie — a platform that gives you everything you need to watch a great film and connect with like-minded people — came to me as a filmmaker when I realized that audiences have few meaningful ways to experience cinema with others.

That’s the short story. Check out the long version here.

I’m writing this post because, as we’re now in the belly of the pandemic’s second wave, I wanted to take the time to express why Hoovie matters — as a powerful tool to bring people together, especially now.

A tool for public engagement and community building

If the 2020 US election tells us anything, it’s how remarkably divided society is. We must find ways to come together, and really hear each other.

This is where Hoovie comes in — a gateway for brave conversations, and fun conversations, and vulnerable conversations, and those conversations where… you didn’t know you needed until you’re in the experience.

Hoovie is much more than just “Airbnb for film screenings”. We are on a mission to empower everyday people to build community through what we like to call social cinema — where films, shared with others, spark conversation and connection. And ultimately, belonging.

A very different co-watching platform — one that nurtures and energizes us

As much as we love cozying up in the living room of a kindred soul to watch an incredible film over a delicious glass of pinot noir, we’ve had to pivot Hoovie in response to lock-down restrictions. Initially this was painful, after having built community through cinema in-real-life since 2018 — from New York, to Vancouver, and many communities in between. But then we realized, we actually have a responsibility to contribute to this new reality, bringing the magic of what we’ve created into the online space, bringing people together like never before.

As we all know, online streaming is the dominant medium for watching movies today. But something has been lost in the convenience of watching movies at home — the social aspect. Movies used to be inherently social; it wasn’t just the film, it was the shared experience of watching it with others and connecting over it.

Streaming video is here to stay, but it doesn’t have to be a solitary experience. Hoovie differs from other co-watching platforms by enabling:

  • Host-led video discussions before and after the film
  • Like-minded people coming together — both strangers and friends
  • Community-building through movie clubs
  • Fundraising
  • Online and offline screenings
  • A catalog of curated independent films, sending industry-leading returns to film rights holders

Through supporting everyday people to host juicy conversations, and helping them stay connected, Hoovie creates a fun online experience that is much more like going to a movie with friends, and meeting kindred spirits along the way. That’s what we mean by social cinema!

A business that supports filmmakers

If watching movies online continues to be a primary channel for independent film distribution, it needs to support filmmakers. Huge streaming services pay film rights holders as little as $0.01 per hour of streaming. We do not view payments at that level as equitable, nor do they provide a sustainable model to support independent film.

Hoovie is charting a new path. Our model sends industry-leading returns to film rights holders — up to 60% of the gross ticket sales. Not only does this provide a new revenue stream to independent filmmakers, but it also makes Hoovie’s platform very attractive for new, premium content.

A huge market opportunity

We believe the experience economy is where a lot of innovation will take shape. Many companies like Hoovie already exist in the music and performing arts space (e.g our friends at SideDoor). It’s only a matter of time before the film industry catches on — especially since social cinema is projected to be a $3–4 billion dollar industry within the next few years.

Tribeca Film Festival co-founder Jane Rosenthal told the New York Post, “What the audience craves is new experiences. It’s about the whole event — good food and something worth seeing together. It’s not about sitting in a broken seat and seeing a movie projected.”

We believe the future of cinema is social. We predict the independent film market will be the first to catch onto how people really want to experience movies. Studios will remain stuck in their old, formulaic ways. Meanwhile, indie films will become even more popular than they are today.

In addition, book clubs are more popular than ever before; but there’s no movie club model out there. We want to popularize the movie club model. As my husband said to me one day, “You know what really builds community? Seeing familiar faces, regularity.” And truly, he’s right. When people come together consistently and really get to know each other, that’s when this thing called “belonging” starts to unfold.

An antidote to loneliness

Hoovie was created as an antidote to the loneliness epidemic, a tool to connect like-minded people — new and old friends as we like to say.

We know that the stronger the conversation, the stronger the bonds. So a part of what we want to do in 2021 is create a platform that really supports our hosts to easily facilitate the strongest conversations possible. We also want to enable our guests to easily connect with each other after screenings.

Our vision for belonging in society

We aim to mainstream social cinema and redefine the movie-watching experience to be social, human and conversational. More than just another way to watch a movie, Hoovie screenings and movie clubs become containers for connection and exchange, couched in the comfort of human hospitality.

We believe the next Greenpeace will spark at a Hoovie screening, and that Hoovie will create a renaissance for film: connecting like-minded people across the world, activating civic engagement, sparking social impact, promoting compassion, and reducing loneliness — all through the simple act of watching a movie together.

So join us (host or attend a Hoovie!) as we bring this reality to life.

Our equity crowdfunding campaign video (I was 8 months pregnant! More about that here)



Fiona Rayher

Mother of two, social enterprise and film-tech startup founder, past documentary filmmaker, communications and partnership specialist, experience designer