this issue edited by Jon Reeves
Welcome to issue 7 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Issue 8 is scheduled for mid-July.
See the further information section at the end of this file for more
information about The Internet Movie Database (IMDb).
- Survey launched
- Please update your links!
- IMDb helps Boston Globe with research
- On accuracy
- Major review URL updates
- Plot summaries wanted
- IMDb in the news
- Web server changes
- Database statistics — one million!
- Future developments
by Col Needham
A couple of weeks ago we launched the IMDb survey in order to find out
more details about who our users are, what they use the database for and
how it could be improved. So far we’ve had several thousand replies with
hundreds more arriving every day. This article describes some of the results
we’ve uncovered. If you raised a question in one of the free-form comment
sections then you should be receiving a reply soon. We are reading each one
but it will take time to catch up.
I’ll cover the general results first:
- 20% use the database every day; 36% weekly; 25% completed the survey
on their first visit
- 25% see movies on the big screen twice per month; 18% once per week
and 18% once per month
- 75% have been using the database for less than a year and 14 people
said they’d been using it right from the start back in 1990
- 36% first found the site by a search engine; 28% via link from another
site; 5% via newsgroups (this was surprising given the amount of time I
spend promoting the IMDb on USENET)
- 12% have a local copy of the database installed
- Favorite movie genres were as follows: 74% comedy; 60% drama; 59% action;
57% science fiction
- 76% use the Netscape Navigator browser and 5% use Microsoft’s Internet Explorer;
66% use a PC and 14% use a Mac.
- Yahoo! is the most used search
engine at 31% followed
by AltaVista at 22%
- the age distribution took us by surprise: the most frequent answer was
35-49 with 22%; the four ranges in 18-34 were about 12% each.
- 70% were male
Now on to the general questions. There were some very clear trends in all
these questions and we’ll be looking at how to balance the needs expressed.
What’s the best thing about the IMDb?
Answers here nearly always boiled down to something like “free
access to a huge, cross-linked, continually updated database of movie
information, including filmographies, reviews and fun stuff like quotes
and trivia.” This was very reassuring since it’s what we’re good at!
What’s the worst thing about the IMDb?
The number one complaint centered around information missing from
the database, mainly that not all movies are covered equally, and
specifically, that there aren’t enough plot summaries and biographies. The
number two complaint is related: people generally find it hard to add
information to the database or think the turnaround on new data is much
too slow. We’ll be working to improve all these things with a better
additions and acknowledgement process, as well as looking at ways to
encourage people to improve specific areas such as the summaries.
The other major complaint was that the site wasn’t “glitzy” enough
(no frames, no large click maps, no Java and none of the other features
which other sites which lack real content use to disguise that fact). On
the other hand, this was offset by the large number of people who
were pleased with the fast loading pages, browser independence and
uncomplicated layout. No need to state our position on that one! Even
so, a few people did complain we already had too many graphics on the
pages so it shows you can’t please everyone.
Finally there were several individual complaints about specific areas
for improvement, all of which we’ll try to look at. The other common
answer was that the survey is too long!
What new things would you like to see us do?
There were many requests here for features which are already available
on the site, so we’ve concluded that we need to make people more aware
of the site index link already on every page!
The top request was for more pictures of people in the database to be
included so we’ll be investigating licensing archives and better ways
to collect links to image sites. Another very popular request was for
more direct links to video sales outfits, especially for non-mainstream
movies. We have a number of ideas in this area, but feel it is important
not to turn the database into an online product catalog.
There were lots of ideas for new ways to search or organize our existing
data and many of these will actually be implemented over the coming months
as time permits. We’re always interested in suggestions along these lines.
Do you have any general comments about The Internet Movie Database?
People mainly used this section to congratulate us on the database. We were
pleased with the overwhelming number of positive comments and specific
instances where the database has helped in some way or another.
So thanks again to everyone who has filled in the survey so far. You should
start to see some of the results via improvements to the site in the next
few months. Feel free to mail us or just complete the free form questions of
the survey if you have any further ideas (which reminds me, *I* haven’t
filled in the survey yet
by Rob Hartill
By the time you read this, one of the IMDb’s old mirror sites will have
closed forever. The mirror at rte66.com run by Los Angeles Webstation was
closed down some time back and has been redirecting to us.imdb.com since
then. The Los Angeles Webstation site is scheduled for complete shutdown
any day now after which there will be no automatic redirecting to the
new site. Thanks to the Webstation staff for operating a mirror for the
by Mark Harding
The Boston Globe (US) recently contacted me about an article they were
writing which proposed to determine whether movies’ running times are
generally getting longer. A premise that, in the wake of such “epics”
as Braveheart, Casino, Heat and Pulp Fiction would seem reasonable.
Always happy to help out where we can I started compiling some statistics
for the Globe from our extensive datasets. My own findings were very
interesting. Put simply, from the start of cinema in 1895 up to about 1960
there was indeed a steady increase in the average running times of
movies. However, from 1960 to present day, the change is minimal and
subject to fluctuations in both directions.
The findings were promptly passed to the Globe, who I guess didn’t find
the results to be what they expected as they never ran the article.
by Jon Reeves
Someone asked recently how accurate our information is. To answer that,
you need to consider the nature of “facts” and examine the sources.
To help us, we use as many sources as we can get our hands on, and we
have a large number of consistency check tools that we run on the data
(though every time we add a major one, it takes us months to clean up
the problems it uncovers, and we can’t always keep up). However, there’s
absolutely no substitute for an international team of movie buffs with an
encyclopedic knowledge of trivia and a large assortment of reference works
(I include in this group many of our loyal contributors). But where do
these people get their information?
First and foremost, there are on-screen credits. These are the best
source, and the one we prefer people to use; it’s what we rely on for
most of our information. They are usually pretty good on modern movies,
but are subject to several problems:
- Name drift. Rita Hayworth started under her real name, Rita Cansino.
Christopher Lambert is still billed as Christophe when he makes French
movies. Middle initials and nicknames come and go. Names in non-Latin
alphabets have varying transliterations.
- Name fusion. There are two different Harrison Ford actors (I) (II). There
are two Australian directors named George Miller (I) (II). We’ve probably
got hundreds of uncorrected cases of this, particularly in the tech
credits. When we spot the problem, the names are distinguished with
roman numerals in parentheses.
- In-jokes. J. Todd Anderson is credited with a Prince-like symbol in Fargo.
- Unbilled performances. These can be cameos (Emma Thompson in My Father
the Hero) or major (Bill Murray in Tootsie). Similarly, writers often use
pseudonyms (Paddy Chayefsky in Altered States) or are denied credit. Before
Mary Pickford, no actors were billed by name; until recent SAG contracts
requiring 50 names, only leading players were credited, often without
character names. The best sources are, unfortunately, confidential:
contracts, deal memos, and payroll records.
- Misspellings. Ernie Hudson‘s character in Ghostbusters wears a patch
over his pocket saying “Zeddemore” (which matches the published script)
but the credits say “Zeddmore”.
- Alternate titles — both translations and retitlings (the German film
Der Bewegte Mann is on its third English title). There’s also times when
two movies with the same title get released close together and their
data gets intermingled. (The two Japan-set films released in 1989 titled
“Black Rain”(I) (II) are confused in some sources; the Academy Awards confused
High Society (1955) and High Society (1956) briefly).
Press kits often contain the on-screen credits — but these may be an earlier
revision than what appears on the final screen. Characters may have been
cut; songs may have been changed; in rare cases the presence
or absence of a character may be too much of a spoiler to include in the
Then there are official bios, autobiographies, and interviews. These are
good for unraveling name fusion/drift problems, but have their own problems:
- Resume padding. Quentin Tarantino invented some acting credits early in
his career that still persist in some reference works.
- Credit inflation. I’ve stopped trusting “producer” credits in bios; these
can be just about any producer-related position, including unit production
manager. Similarly, sound editors sometimes become sound designers.
- Title/year mangling. Rare is the bio that doesn’t flat misspell
some film. And the years cited, if any, are often incorrect; the
resume of one famous writer has a film released one year, when it
opened nationally in December of the previous year, and writers
often list the date they wrote the book, not the date the movie was
released. A producer once couldn’t find his own movie in the database
because he spelled the title wrong.
- Intentional omissions. Early films that are now embarrassments or
considered “too minor”; films made too long ago (makes the person
Subject-matter experts can be very helpful because they know about
most of the above problems and can clean them up; a Charlie Chan expert
spent some time cleaning up those films, for example, and we’re heavily
dependent on the net’s Hong Kong film fans. But they are fallible, too,
particularly when something crosses into their expertise from another
area (for instance, when name drift/fusion problems intersect). And
like anything, the levels of expertise and scholarship vary.
Reference works. Well, they are usually working off the same primary
sources described above, with all the attendant problems. Add to this
transcription errors. And disagreement among sources: I have 9 different
sources giving 5 different dates, spanning 11 years, for the birth date
of Ray Walston. They can’t even agree on the month or the day of the month.
Filtered contributions from our loyal readers. Subject to many of the
problems noted above, since they are often working from these sources;
in addition, there are more typos and people working with faulty memories.
Oh, and general incompleteness; we mark complete casts, but there’s
usually no way to confirm that a person’s filmography is complete.
So, the general answer: Trust nothing. Or everything. If this is
thesis-quality research, definitely use us only as a starting point;
for most casual users, though, you’ll find our data very good, though we
certainly welcome any improvements in our data.
by Jon Reeves
One of our most frequent requests is more reviews. With that in mind,
several thousand online review links have been added to the database
over the past month, including several hundred from the
San Francisco Chronicle and
Eye Weekly, the
USA Today, and
We have been including
links to their reviews, but they had not been added to for some time. A
process is now in place to add new reviews from these sources and
All these review links are available from the commercial reviews icon
by Col Tinto
Going by your comments in the survey, the plot summaries are very
popular, but many of you complain about the coverage.
So help us out here… I know someone reading this will have seen some
of the films listed here – why not take a few minutes to write a quick
summary of the plot, and send it in? You’ll be doing your bit to please
thousands of other IMDb users!
Listed below are the top 20 most voted for movies without summaries.
Over 450 people voted for Nine 1/2 Weeks, so someone must know what
Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment (1985)
Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984)
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
Police Academy 3: Back in Training (1986)
Night Shift (1982)
Johnny Dangerously (1984)
by Jon Reeves
Just a few of the traditional media outlets that have mentioned us lately:
Milwaukee (Wisc.) Journal Sentinel.
PBS: Life on the Internet.
We’ve also won the following new award. See the whole gallery here.
by Rob Hartill
In early May we added a second machine at our US location to improve response
times. Those of you with an interest in the technical issues might be
interested to know that we’re using round robin DNS, everyone else only
needs to know that the address “us.imdb.com” points to both servers.
The two old US mirror sites rte66.com and www.msstate.edu are now redirecting
to us.imdb.com. This will not last forever, so please see the “PLEASE
UPDATE YOUR LINKS” section to help smooth the shutdown of these old mirrors.
Our first batch of advertisers debuted recently. These include
Eachmovie – a movie recommendation service,
and movie promotions for The Phantom,
Mission Impossible and
Independence Day. We expect this will allow us to improve server
performance yet again in the near future.
by Col Needham
This is a regular section giving information about the current size
and growth of the IMDb. We receive between 20,000 and 35,000 additions
every week from users all over the world.
Number of filmography entries: 1,021,550
Number of people covered: 294,903
Number of movies covered: 74,632
Size of the database (Mb): 84
- Over 20,000 sound mix entries.
- Over 50,000 country entries.
- Over 70,000 director entries.
- Over 100,000 miscellaneous filmography entries.
- Over 200,000 actress entries.
- Over 1,000,000 filmography entries.
Note: the “Number of people covered” statistic was calculated incorrectly in
previous issues, so the number above is not directly comparable.
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.
- full support for accented characters (ISO 8859-1) without losing
people that can’t type them. Implementation in progress.
- a list giving the language(s) of the original release.
- proper handling of writer credit order.
- a Windows interface in now in final beta test after recent work
to improve performance and make it work on multiple Windows
platforms (95, 3.1, NT).
- 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. Time to check you’re up-to-date
with your voting!
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