Founded in January 2000 by Charles Neulight, Joe Neulight, and David Straus, Withoutabox was a website that allowed independent filmmakers to distribute their films to film festivals all over the world. Filmmakers could browse through thousands of film festivals, including famous ones like Sundance, and submit their entries. The film festivals could request submissions and manage them through the international film submission system.
In 2008, Withoutabox was acquired by Amazon’s subsidiary IMDb. After the acquisition, Withoutabox started providing streaming through IMDb as well as sales of DVDs and VOD through Amazon’s Createspace.
After 17 years of service, Withoutabox announced that it would be suspending its services in 2019. Over the years, the company had faced some competition from other similar websites. The platform had also been receiving complaints from filmmakers regarding its services and technology - the code was outdated, and e.g. it took minutes to return search queries. The competition and user complaints had weakened the company’s reputation in the film submission market.
Despite these issues, Withoutabox had continued to persist and had managed to gain back some of its popularity by improving its services. The company worked with film festivals to make the platform easier to navigate and improved the quality of its video streaming service. That is why it came as a surprise to many when in 2019, Withoutabox announced that it was shutting down. At the time, IMDb didn’t provide any comments explaining the drastic decision.
Despite being a dominant leader in the film submission business, Withoutabox may have been struggling to stay competitive against companies such as FilmFreeway that outperformed its platform. Over the years, Withoutabox had been forced to lower its commissions and eliminate the setup fee which might also have taken a toll on its profits. Clearly, the company failed to make the adjustments necessary to remain competitive and profitable at the same time.