The Official Blog of IMDb

Newsletter #8

July 15th, 1996 | Posted by admin in Newsletter

this issue edited by Jon Reeves

Welcome to issue 8 of the IMDb newsletter. The newsletter is intended to
keep database users and contributors informed of the latest developments
from the management team. Comments and suggestions are welcome and should
be directed to Issue 9 is scheduled for September.

See the further information section at the end of this file for more
information about The Internet Movie Database (IMDb).



by Col Needham

Here’s a quick update on the IMDb user survey which has been running
for a couple of months now. The replies are continuing to flood in at
quite a rate but we are generally keeping up with questions and issues
raised. If you’re still expecting a reply from an early survey please
mail me directly for a response.

Again I’ll cover some general results first (mainly where there are
significant changes since last month):

  • 14% use the database every day; 30% weekly; 38% completed the survey
    on their first visit.
  • 79% have been using the database for less than a year and 71 people
    said they’d been using it right from the start back in 1990
  • 70% use the Netscape browser and 6% use Microsoft’s Internet Explorer;
    68% use a PC and 14% use a Mac.

The free form answers have continued in much the same way with some common
complaints and suggestions but also plenty of original ideas which we’ll
be looking at over the next few months.

We’ve addressed several of these already:

  • our new site design retains the browser independence and the small
    sized graphics whilst simultaneously looking better
  • the video sales trial helps people locate copies of some
    of the movies in the database
  • we’ve improved our collection of links to home pages, image archives
    and official sites to make more pictures available via the IMDb
  • the localised searches for
    Italy, and
    Portugal make the database easier
    to use by people in those countries as well as adding quick access
    to their local movie release dates


by Col Needham and Mark Harding

The second most requested new feature for the site was the addition of
video sales links so we’ve just launched a new area to cover this. For
the next three months, as an experiment, we’re working with several
online video and merchandising stores on the web. The idea is to provide
purchasing links for titles in the database which take users directly
to pages where the movies and other goods can be purchased. The idea
is to provide convenient access to a wide choice of video suppliers
for everything from the latest video blockbuster to that obscure 1930s
flick you’ve been seeking for half your life.

We currently have two stores in the trial –
Videoflicks and
CDworld with
others coming online soon. Please let us know what you think of this new
service as it will help us decide how to support this in the long term
(or not). If you have a favourite store which provides a good service
and isn’t part of the trial, please pass this newsletter on to them.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg! In the near future we hope
to extend this service further to include other movie merchandise
such as posters, scripts, stills and other memorabilia.


by Mark Harding

Another much requested list is now live on the IMDb servers, the
LANGUAGE LIST. This section records the languages spoken during the
movie in the original release. It is not intended to record
languages a movie may have been dubbed in.

Because many countries use a diverse range of languages there are
bound to be some errors in the data. Any help to clean up this section
is much appreciated.

For details on submitting new entries, or correcting existing entries
please read the
LANGUAGE submissions guide.


by Giancarlo Cairella

The BUSINESS section contains information about the business/commercial
side of the movie industry. The section includes information such as
production dates, studio locations, film budgets, box office revenues
(total and opening weekend), number of movie tickets sold in a
specific country, distributor rentals revenues, copyright information and
other financial/statistical data.

All amounts are in U.S. dollars unless otherwise specified and are to be
considered estimates, not official or definitive data. All box office
grosses do not include video rentals or sales, television rights and other
non-theatrical revenues. Since some movies may still be in general
release, all data is subject to change.

The fields available for submitting information are:

  • Movie Title (Year)

  • Movie Budget [Country]

  • Box Office Gross (Territory) [Date]

  • Opening Weekend Box Office Take (Territory) [Date] [Screens]

  • Rentals
  • Admissions (Territory)

  • Production Dates (Start-End)

  • Studio where movie was filmed (Country)

  • Copyright Holder and contact information.

See the
business submissions guide for a full explanation of these fields.


by Peter W. Simeon

At the end of June, I took over the management of the technical data
from Joachim Polzer. This will improve the quality of both the technical
section and the literature section. Joachim now has more time to manage
the literature data and I can make use of some synergies between the
technical section and the laserdisc list.

In addition to fixing some bugs and adding lots of new data, I have made
some changes in the technical data. The process field was always a little
confusing, because there were processes like Cinerama or CinemaScope,
but also camera model information like Arriflex 16SR. I decided to
split this into two fields: The new CAM field will contain camera and
lens information and the PCS field will be used for cinematic processes
only. For example, you can now submit Super 35 for the PCS field and
Panavision Cameras and Lenses for the CAM field. There is a new keyword
CAMERA for submitting data for the CAM field via the keyword interface.

I tried to clean up all entries with Panavision as a process. As you may
know, Panavision can indicate many things like a Panavision camera or the
use of a Panavision anamorphic lens. For most entries, I could identify
the process and added the attributes (spherical) or (anamorphic). If you
add new data, please try to always use these attributes to clarify what
you wanted to add. Also make sure to submit data for prints, negative
and aspect ratio, if possible. For all movies newer than 1952, I now use
(spherical) or (anamorphic) as process name, if the name of the process
is unknown. Please also use this convention in the future.


by Lachlan Wetherall

Xregal is an X11 interface to the Internet Movie Database when it is
installed locally on a Unix system.

Xregal makes use of Col Needham’s movie database package. It is essential
that you set up his package and ensure that it is working first before
trying to set up xregal. Xregal was written to interface with version 3.2f
of Col’s package although it should work with earlier 3.2 versions also.
Both the moviedb package and xregal are available from
all IMDb FTP sites.

Why xregal? The name is in appreciation of the Regal Cinema in Birmingham
Gardens, near where I live. The Regal is the only local suburban cinema
in Newcastle, Australia that survived the video age and continues to operate.
I lived next door to it for a couple of years and saw many fine movies there.

Using xregal is very simple. You can either search for a person’s name or
a movie title. Case is insignificant in searches. Names can be specified
either in the form “Firstname Lastname” or “Lastname, Firstname”. Titles
that begin with ‘The’ or ‘A’ can be specified in either form also; e.g.,
“The Firm” and “Firm, The” are acceptable.

Searching on a movie title will automatically search for TV programs
of the same name. If you know the title refers to a TV program you can
speed the search by enclosing the name in ” quotes. Where there are
multiple movies with the same name, a particular movie can be identified
by appending the year enclosed in parentheses to the search term; e.g.,
“Sabrina (1995)”.

Any text that is underlined is a hyperlink. Clicking on the hyperlink will
initiate a search on the hyperlink text.

Xregal is designed to be usable even on a monochrome screen. If you want
a fancy color scheme, you can adjust colors using X resources.

My thanks to:

  • All who have contributed to the Internet Movie Database in any way.
  • Bert Bos for writing wbuild which makes widget writing
    so easy. I also have used a modified version of Bert’s label widget
    from the Free Widget Foundation.

  • Paul Kendall who wrote the ArticleText widget in the
    Free Widget Foundation collection from which I borrowed many ideas in the
    writing of the LinkText widget.

Xregal is copyright 1996 by
Lachlan Wetherall; it’s free for personal use.
Please see the README file in the package for further conditions.

[Ed. note: yes, moviedb 3.2f was recently released; mostly bug fixes,
capacity updates, and support for new lists.


by Rod Crawford

As regular users are well aware, the IMDb does contain errors. With 30,000
lines received per week, we can’t reasonably expect the database team
to catch all errors on first entry. Most errors can be corrected later,
but some are more difficult than others. For instance, it’s really easy
to fix a defective character name, but presently impossible to remove
an inappropriate cast order number. As long as we’re going to all this
trouble (without even getting paid) to add data, a little extra effort to
get it as accurate as possible can’t hurt. In the course of submitting
data and corrections on over 600 films, I’ve seen how things go wrong
and can offer a few suggestions on improving accuracy.

On older films where the screen credits may be incomplete or
missing, it’s possible to add cast and character names from print
sources. However, data from the film itself must be given priority.
Aside from name credits, print sources shouldn’t be relied on.
Particularly for cast order data! Books and reviews list the cast in a
different order from the screen credits in a large proportion of cases,
maybe even a majority. It’s safer to enter names from such sources with
the order field blank, to be filled in later by someone who has the
actual film available. Moreover, some books and occasional reviews list
bit players who are not credited on screen. It’s good to include these
credits in the database, but since they’re not in the credits they have
no credits order. The order in which they’re listed in the book means
nothing! When there’s a long list of uncredited names with spurious
“order” numbers, trying to correct the order of credited players
is a real pain. For a typical example, see
The Big Clock (1948).
Of the 58 actors now listed, 26 are credited on screen (not in this
order except for the first 10). The others should have been listed
without order data (this puts them in an alphabetical list). As is,
it’s almost uncorrectable. Remember, if someone isn’t credited on screen,
they should have the attribute (uncredited).

It’s unsafe to make sweeping assumptions unless you really know what
you’re talking about. Example: anyone might be tempted to assume that
all films preceding
The Jazz Singer (1927)
were silent. Not so! De Forest Phonofilm started making talking shorts
in 1923, joined by Vitaphone in 1926. Such assumptions have brought
many errors into the database.

Before writing a plot description, watch the movie! Resist the
temptation to paraphrase all the plot descriptions in a book on “The Films
of Joe Blow.” Chances are, the book’s author hasn’t seen them all either;
doing this virtually guarantees plot errors. What’s more, without watching
the film it’s hard to tell what plot events are supposed to be surprises
and avoid unintentional spoilers. Other tips on plot writing: a summary
shouldn’t just list several plot events in order; it should summarize! Not
the entire plot, just enough to stop short of spoilers. Good tricks for
spoiler-avoidance include the ellipsis (example: They little suspect the
creature has stowed away aboard their ship…), the question (Can Superman
save Metropolis from destruction?) and intentional vagueness. It’s okay to
suggest the flavor of a movie, but not to say that it’s good or bad (after
all, someone out there undoubtedly hates your favorite, and vice versa).
And please, take a few minutes to proofread, or even have a nit-picking
friend do so. You want to make a good impression on other film fans, don’t

As pointed out in the last newsletter issue, there’s a lot of variation
and duplication among names of actors and crew. If you want to save
others a lot of correction work, it really helps to look up unfamiliar
names in the database before submitting them in new data. Thus, you’d
find out that there are 3 actors named Bill Williams

(in addition to 4 Billys
3 Williams

(III), a
Willy and a
Willie!) plus a
cinematographer and an
editor. This knowledge
gives you a better chance of listing the
right one! (The filmographies will give clues). Or, you may find no
actress named Freddie Washington, but a substring search reveals one
(with similar credits) named
Fredi; thus catching a
mistake in your source before it gets online. It’s best to search on the
last name, or an unusual first name, or parts of both
(“Ford, J“;
rue, Ge“).

Many other such tips are possible, but will be saved for a future
article. Parting words: the IMDb describes what is actually in the films;
the most reliable source is therefore the films themselves, which must
take precedence over something in a book or newspaper, or even something
“everybody knows”…


Here’s the most popular searches people have done lately, based on
total pages for the week ending July 13.


  1. Independence Day (1996)

  2. Striptease (1996)
  3. Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
  4. Mission: Impossible (1996)
  5. The Rock (1996)
  6. Phenomenon (1996)
  7. Twister (1996)

  8. Heaven’s Prisoners (1996)
  9. Eraser (1996)
  10. Star Wars (1977)
  11. Braveheart (1995)
  12. Pulp Fiction (1994)
  13. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

  14. Best of Pamela Anderson (1995) (V)
  15. Jurassic Park (1993)
  16. Heat (1995)
  17. Twelve Monkeys (1995)
  18. The Cool Surface (1994)
  19. Naked Souls (1995)

  20. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Also strong were other Star Trek related titles, the various Batman movies
Batman and Robin (1997)), and
(with an unusually high interest in the
URL page).
Independence Day‘s
lead here was almost as commanding as at the boxoffice: over 3.5 times as
many visits as Striptease.


  1. Pamela Anderson
  2. Demi Moore
  3. Teri Hatcher
  4. Tom Cruise
  5. Jenny McCarthy

  6. Groucho Marx
  7. Kim Basinger
  8. Shannon Tweed
  9. Jennifer Connelly
  10. Mel Gibson
  11. Sandra Bullock

  12. Bo Derek
  13. Helen Hunt
  14. Meg Ryan
  15. Brad Pitt
  16. Sharon Stone
  17. Bill Pullman

  18. Alyssa Milano
  19. Will Smith
  20. Arnold Schwarzenegger

Margaret Colin and
Jeff Goldblum just missed the cut.
Groucho, of
course, gets a boost from our house ad;
Marilyn Monroe and
Cary Grant also
did surprisingly well (though not as well as

Kevin Bacon).
Much closer race for number 2 here; we’ll see if
Demi‘s popularity
lasts longer than her movie.


by Col Needham

Movies opening in the US in June/July sorted by number of votes (to 4th July)

3389.3Trainspotting (1995)
3188.3Rock, The (1996)

1397.6Eraser (1996)
1178.8Independence Day (1996)
987.3Striptease (1996)

898.8Hunchback of Notre Dame, The (1996)
776.9Phantom, The (1996)
758.1Visiteurs, Les (1993)

378.5Courage Under Fire (1996)
357.3Stealing Beauty (1996)

Movies opening in the US in June/July sorted by average votes (to 4th July)



3389.3Trainspotting (1995)
279.1Lone Star (1996)


1178.8Independence Day (1996)
898.8Hunchback of Notre Dame, The (1996)
198.8Time to Kill, A (1996)

318.5Phenomenon (1996)
378.5Courage Under Fire (1996)
3188.3Rock, The (1996)

758.1Visiteurs, Les (1993)
348.1Nutty Professor, The (1996)


by Jon Reeves

Just a few of the traditional media outlets that have mentioned us lately:

Detroit News.
Zoom movie magazine (Switzerland).
Rettig on Reference.

Computer Life (UK), June.
The New York Times.

We’ve also won several new awards. See
the whole gallery here.

AmeriSites Select Sites.
Launch Pad to the World’s Best Web Sites.
Magellan featured site.

Yell for the UK best: final round.
Medaille d’Or for Web Site Excellence.
Hot 100.
PC Magazine top 100.
Steve Sokoloski Site of the Week.

And team member Jon Reeves gave a
talk to the
New Hampshire Internet Special Interest Group

recently about the database.


by Rob Hartill

Over the past few days and weeks many of the html pages have
seen a facelift. Most noticeable are the new graphics and icons
which have been created for us by
AmeriSites Website Development. If
you like what you see, check them out.

Another recent change is a more compact search form. This replaces the
old search page that spanned many screens and probably confused a lot of
people. The new search form collects all the most common search options
into one small form. All the old searching methods are still supported,
either via this compact form or from pages leading off of the search page.

A few of the database pages have been improved from a presentation point
of view with the use of tables. These pages include: main movie listings
(cast crew etc),
top 250,
bottom 100,
on this day in history, and
recent releases.
More use of tables will be made as and where appropriate.
Many people still use browsers that can’t handle tables. We have
old-style pages for those people (e.g. users of older Mosaics and
Lynx). Our servers can be configured to serve table-free pages if you
tell us how the browser identifies itself (User-Agent HTTP header).


by Jon Reeves

People have asked about the software we use to run the web site. Some of
the information is already on the site (our operating system is
FreeBSD and our web server is
Apache, both with various performance
tweaks). As for the other software details:

Our database system is a home brew combination of C programs and Perl
scripts (and we’re quite happy with it, thank you). The web code is not
publicly available, though you’re welcome to use the public interface
code available from
our FTP sites for personal non-commercial use.

And for the text pages: nobody in the team has felt the need for a special
HTML text editor; we use vi and emacs.


by Jon Reeves

This is a regular section giving information about the current size
and growth of the IMDb. We receive between 30,000 and 40,000 additions
every week from users all over the world.

Number of filmography entries: 1,079,337
Number of people covered: 308,537
Number of movies covered: 77,603

Size of the database (Mb): 86

Recent milestones:

  • Trivia for over 1500 films

  • Over 15,000 plot summaries

  • Over 15,000 complete cast lists

  • Over 25,000 sound mix entries

  • Over 30,000 cinematographer entries

  • Over 30,000 composer entries
  • Color entries for over 50,000 films

  • Over 75,000 film titles

  • Over 300,000 people

  • Over 450,000 actor entries


This is a regular section listing some enhancements we’re currently
looking at. Please bear in mind that some of these may take quite
a while to come to fruition or even fail to materialize because the
original volunteer decides not to proceed.

  • a complete rewrite of the additions interface. The survey results
    suggest that many people struggle with the clumsy interface currently
    in place. Taking the comments from the survey and our own ideas we
    are completely rewriting the additions interface. This is a major
    undertaking and will take some time to complete. We’re confident
    the results will be worth the wait!! :-)
  • full support for accented characters (ISO 8859-1) without losing
    people that can’t type them. Implementation in progress.
  • proper handling of writer credit order.
  • a locally installable MS-Windows interface to the database is
    under final testing for those of you who want to reduce your
    phone bills!
  • enhanced awards section for the database covering more
    international festivals, national film institutes etc.
  • general support for alternate titles in languages other than
    English and the language of the original country.
  • a movie recommendation service that will use your vote records to
    suggest other movies you might enjoy. Initially available via an
    E-mail interface. Time to check you’re up-to-date with your voting!

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