25 Years Later: The Internet Movie Database

When Col Needham, creator of the Internet Movie Database, visited Video in November 1998 as the magazine was transitioning into S&V, the IMDb was already eight years old and had just been acquired by Amazon. Though most users had to perch in front of a PC with dial-up, the site was already the go-to place to research, for instance, the synopsis and credits for Dark City, which came out that year. Mostly text-based, the IMDb’s claim to fame among videophiles was its comprehensiveness and hyperlinks that easily let you find actress Jennifer Connelly’s other movies or learn that Alex Proyas had previously directed The Crow.

When the IMDb turns 25 in October, both its database and popularity will have multiplied exponentially. The IMDb consumer site (imdb.com) currently lists more than 3 million movies and TV shows and more than 6 million cast and crew members. It has a combined Web and mobile audience exceeding 200 million unique monthly visitors.

As Internet usage has shifted to handheld screens, so goes the IMDb. E-mailing from the Cannes Film Festival, Emily Glassman, head of PR & Original Content at IMDb.com, declared, “More than 50 percent of our traffic now comes from mobile devices, which is a trend we expect will continue.”

The IMDb’s portfolio of entertainment apps includes its Movies & TV app for iPhone, iPad, Kindle Fire, Android phones, Android tablets, and its mobile-optimized Website. “To date, there have been more than 115 million downloads of IMDb’s mobile apps worldwide,” she says.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s bet on the IMDb has paid off big time. Where once he could sell you the DVD of a movie that you had taken the trouble to look up, he can now sell you the Amazon Instant Video. And even before you watch a trailer, he can make you sit through another commercial he’s sold to an advertiser. And if you’re in the industry and need the name of an actor’s agent, he can make you subscribe to IMDb Pro. It’s good to be the number-one movie Website in the world.

Streaming video, unfeasible before broadband, is now an IMDb staple. And the IMDb is not just about movies anymore. It’s about TV too. As the networks’ upfront presentations about the fall season rolled out to potential advertisers in May, the IMDb showed us what we’ll be watching and provided the details the networks’ own sites often lacked.

In perusing the IMDb app on my iPad, I was drawn to a tile showing a naked, tattooed woman in a show called Blindspot. I needed to know more about the actress, Jamie Alexander. She had previously appeared in two Thor movies. I streamed Blindspot’s video promo, admiring the 5’ 9” actress’s slick fighting skills against Chinese thugs. I learned the name of the movie’s fight coordinator and checked out other flicks he had choreographed.

Too much information? If you prefer the bird’s-eye view of the new TV season, 29 screen swipes will do: an image, a caption, next! As always with the IMDb, you can go deep and wide or just skim the cream.

According to Glassman, the goal of the mobile apps’ iOS and Android updates in April was to make it easier for users to discover and engage with videos (such as clips, interviews, trailers, and short features). And the TV series page now features information on season premieres and other tune-in-related content.

It’s a far cry from the days when we consulted a paperback like Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide to settle an argument. Today, you simply whip out your smartphone.

dnoonie's picture

I used to use a mix of Yahoo movies and IMDB, then Yahoo movies dropped most of the information I used it for and replaced it with eye candy. I no longer use Yahoo movies, now IMDB is the first place I go to for new info about a show of movie, then I usually find a good wiki for the show or movie depending on the detail I'm looking for. A Networks show info and movie websites are usually not very good.

Way to go IMDB!