Here’s a lesson for brands trying to infiltrate the wonderfully weird world of Tumblr: Be more like Brooklyn’s Nitehawk Cinema and don’t try so hard. The Nitehawk Tumblr mostly posts drawings and messages people leave for the waiters, or those they pass back and forth to tablemates–Nitehawk serves food and drink inside the theater, using a handwritten system for ordering. Patrons, it turns out, pen more than just drink requests, scrawling notes or doodles on the scraps of paper.
Since 2011, the Williamsburg establishment has collected the “droppings,” which range from drawings of “Donut Robots” to confessionals a la Post Secret. One says: “Ryan, keep this a secret. But I totally found out that David Blackwell totally had sex with our highschool mascot… the costume, not the person… weird!” Or sometimes people just get creative with orders, drawing out their beer requests in a cryptogram.
Note how none of the images have anything to do with buying tickets to the movies or attending Nitehawk’s boozy brunch screenings. (The theater has a liquor license.) Although, movie posters and other cinema related GIFs and pictures are sprinkled among the droppings. Every image on the Tumblr is more a reflection of the clientele and Nitehawk’s atmosphere than something for sale–which kind of makes the site the most wonderful form of branding for Tumblr.
Fast Company reached out to the Nitehawk for the origin story behind the Tumblr and got this delightful tale from Kris King, who runs the site, and also edits Hatched, the cinema’s blog. We’ve opted to post the entire unedited response, because it gets at why the Tumblr works so well. (Hint: It doesn’t take a brand consultant to know what’s cool.)
I’ve been running Nitehawk Droppings since I started it sometime last year, but the management has been collecting these things since we opened in 2011. The oldest I have is from opening night. It has a couple of stoned-looking birds on it and says “‘Nitehawk is the shit 4 real.'” You don’t just throw something like that away.
Before the Tumblr, we mostly just taped them up in the manager’s office — we still do, you can see them by the door if it’s open. Those are all of our hot fresh cuts. I think the original idea was to save them for something silly, like a book (what is book?), but they started to pile up so I put them on the Internet. There’s sort of a sour haze to Tumblr that seemed like it would welcome a bunch of oddball doodles and passive aggressive notes.
Reactions have been pretty positive all around — people really like the 14-page Jezebel-post-on-paper that a couple left during Blue is the Warmest Color, and everyone (Everyone.) likes drawings of dicks. I just keep waiting for someone to get angry at me for some reason. It is the Internet.
That being said, for all of the love that the doodles get, this Airplane gif-set is the most popular thing we’ve ever posted by like… 20,000 times. Tumblr will be Tumblr, I guess.
For more droppings head on over to the Nitehawk’s Tumblr.