Wordle taking the world by storm was just the beginning for daily online games. A new offering geared toward cinema-savvy fans is ready for its close-up.
Created by Boston residents and longtime friends Sam Shulman and Alex Nunan, Movie Grid features a three-by-three grid with six clues listed along its axes. Users guess film titles to match each day’s clues, which include rotating parameters such as release year, genre, or an actor’s name.
Take, for example, “Margot Robbie and Christian Bale, and you could say, ‘The Big Short,’ and that would work,” Nunan explained to the Globe in a recent phone interview.
He added, “You only have nine guesses,” with users receiving results at the end of the game, “which show your score and some data about how other people did on the grid.”
Both Nunan and Shulman have wide-ranging tastes when it comes to movies. Nunan mentioned 2014′s critically acclaimed indie film “Whiplash” as one of his favorites, and he also loves the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Shulman’s favorite films include “Blade Runner 2049″ (2017) and “There Will Be Blood” (2007).
Shulman says they built the game using an application programming interface (API) key, which is a unique code used to authenticate an application or user, to tap into publicly available movie data and poster images from IMDb, the online film and entertainment database. As self-described big sports fans, he and Nunan modeled Movie Grid after the popular Immaculate Grid game, which focuses on baseball trivia and exploded in popularity earlier this summer.
Since its own Aug. 28 launch, Movie Grid has amassed over 20,000 daily base users, according to Shulman, with occasional spikes in traffic when someone notable shares the game with their following. The Ringer’s Van Lathan, for instance, frequently posts his Movie Grid scores on X. Shulman said that the media personality and “Red Pill” podcast host started playing and posting about the game after he and Nunan sent Van Lathan a direct message on social media.
“He’s been really helpful on growing the base and getting Movie Grid out there,” Shulman said.
Following in the footsteps of Wordle, acquired by the New York Times last year for an undisclosed amount, Movie Grid is garnering “interest from some pretty big media companies,” according to Nunan, who declined to name specific parties interested in the game. But creating a company they could cash in on was never their initial intent, Shulman said, noting how it started out as “just a side project” to practice coding.
Shulman moved to Concord from North Hampton, N.H., at 13 and attended Concord-Carlisle High School with Nunan, a Carlisle native, before the pair parted ways in college. After earning a degree in journalism from University of Massachusetts Amherst, Shulman reunited with Nunan, who attended Bentley University. The friends, now 25, later became roommates and still live together in East Boston.
“In the beginning of 2023, I was freelance writing, and it really wasn’t going the way I wanted,” Shulman said. He decided to switch gears to try coding bootcamps at the suggestion of his father, who works in software engineering. Nunan quickly took up coding after getting laid off as a quality assurance associate at a bank.
Since the pair lacked software engineering experience, they needed a side project to work on within GitHub, a cloud-based platform for developers, as a showcase of their skill for potential employers. Shulman and Nunan decided to create Movie Grid as a way to hone their skillsets and pass the time.
“It was something to throw on our résumé,” said Shulman. “We were just trying to keep coding and show potential employers we’re constantly working on our craft.”
As for why fans keep gravitating toward grid-based games, Shulman and Numan said that the “aesthetically pleasing” format lends itself well to sharing on social media, where people can brag and show off their trivia know-how.
“If you’re a movie fan or a big sports fan, there’s not really a good way to flex your knowledge,” Nunan said. “I think these grid games and Wordle and stuff like that really make it easy for people to exercise those hobbies.”
Shulman and Nunan recently expanded their venture to include a TV Grid edition, which updates weekly with new television-related clues.
Matt Juul can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.