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Needham Talks IMDb 20th Year Overhaul, Top 20 Lists

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood October 6, 2010 at 11:29AM

As someone who turns to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) every hour, much less every day, I can't believe that the popular movie buff destination is celebrating its 20th anniversary on October 17.
Thompson on Hollywood

As someone who turns to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) every hour, much less every day, I can't believe that the popular movie buff destination is celebrating its 20th anniversary on October 17.

Like most IMDb regulars, I have been adjusting to the recent site redesign, which no longer favors research dweebs like me, accustomed to easy access to film credits and links like "company credits" and "awards" on the left column (although you can revert back to the old format). (IMDb PRO is well worth the annual fee.) Needless to say, Bristol-based IMDb founder Col Needham, who still runs site, which was acquired by Amazon in 1998, has been paying attention to users in the overhaul. So now the top of each page gives fans more photos, video, links to theater showtimes, VOD and DVD availability, and more user-generated functionality, such as a list-making tool that readers can share with Facebook friends. "It's still data," he insists, "with a more visual focus. The awards link is more prominent now." Especially with the star pages, Needham argues, you get a better sense of "who is this person?"

Heading into the future, says Needham, IMDb is pursuing an "available everywhere" initiative, taking its content "beyond the web," first by adding mobile phone and iPad apps and soon, set top boxes and "any connected device, film or TV, that people interact with." With the growth of video-on-demand, Needham believes, IMDb becomes a crucial adjunct to movie lovers' lives, "to help them make viewing decisions." That way, viewers can look up other movies by a director they like, check cast names, and read film and talent news feeds in whatever country. (For the moment, I use IMDb alongside my trusty Leonard Maltin Movie Guide.)

In the tradition of this blog (which posted the top ten list of IMDb chief Needham on the 18th anniversary) here's the Hitchcock lover's Top 20 list, led by Inception. Needham was recently named #46 on The Guardian's list of the 100 most powerful people in film, outranking the likes of Jeff Berg, Roger Ebert, Rupert Murdoch and Judd Apatow.

Last week IMDb--which boasts over 57 million unique visitors each month and a searchable database of more than 1.5 million movies, TV and entertainment programs and over 3.2 million cast and crew members--led off its special 20th anniversary editorial section with a CAA party and video interviews with Kevin Spacey and partner Dana Brunetti (who are in excellent moods right now after opening The Social Network), the first of 20 celebrities (including Will Ferrell, Josh Brolin, Oliver Stone, Susan Sarandon and Justin Timberlake) cheering on IMDb. Said Kevin Smith:

IMDb saved me an insane amount of time in my life. I think of every fight I ever got in with somebody who just didn’t have a crucial piece of movie information at their fingertips. I said one thing. They said another. Loggerheads. Relationships destroyed. IMDb comes along and just immediately solves that. It’s an insanely useful tool. I hit it everyday. It’s my homepage. Because that’s my stock-in- trade. That’s my currency. What I speak is movies.

Also posted are various top 20 lists --like the most surprising Oscar wins, led by Crash--and a year-by-year retrospective of:

Box Office Returns; The Year in Movies; Trivia; Trailers, Top 20 Lists, Photo Galleries; Editorial Lists; Notable and Influential Films; Award-Winners; The Year in IMDb History; and In Memoriam.

This article is related to: Web/Tech, Digital Future, Media, Amazon

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.