CEO Of IMDb Talks About Founding The Largest Movie Database

Col Needham, the founder of IMDb, put together his passion and knowledge to establish the world’s largest online movie database. 

If you’re a movie fan, you’ve undoubtedly searched for movies on the internet, and you’ve certainly encountered IMDb

This is because we truly need to know the cast, ratings, and reviews before we invest our time and effort in watching a film. 

Because we want to align our interests with the movie, right? 

Well, thanks to IMDb, or the Internet Movie Database, it offers information about millions of films and TV programs, including the cast, crew, ratings, and reviews. 

In essence, it stands as the world’s most popular and authoritative source for movie, TV, and celebrity content. 

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The founder of IMDb, Col Needham.
Col Needham/Photo via IMDb’s official website

Movie Mogul

The man behind IMDb is Col Needham. Proclaimed a “movie buff,” the founder of IMDb has seen over 15,000 films. That’s a profound love for movies! 

Needham mentioned how his love for movies has been with him his entire life. 

“My earliest memory is going to see Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs when I was 5. From that point on, all I wanted to do was see more and more films,” he said. 

For the movie enthusiast, he admitted that he’s fortunate to have been the right age for two important revolutions: home computing and home video. 

In the early ‘80s, Needham stated that he watched so many movies on VHS tape that he began to lose track of what he’d already seen. 

In 1981, he got a notebook–which he admits is a classic film geek solution–and began to record the movies he watched each day. 

Founder of IMDb's journal, where he tracks movie viewings and notes.
Needham’s journal where he tracks movie viewings and notes/Photo via Amazon’s official website

Within two weeks of entering his film diary, he had developed an extensive database on his home computer. 

“I used to rewind VHS tapes, press pause, type in the main credits, and that was that,” said Needham. 

By 1988, Needham was participating in a film discussion group on the public internet. 

He noticed that the FAQ files of his film credits were expanding, so he wrote and published the first version of IMDb on October 17, 1990. 

Passion Recognizes Passion

After a few years, Amazon acquired IMDb. It was actually among Amazon’s first acquisitions. 

“Because of their similar passion for books, the Amazon team understands and fully supports IMDb’s mission of providing the best possible information to movie lovers,” Col said in the 1998 press release.

For Needham, there were several key milestones in their evolution that made them a great fit with Amazon. 

First, they were built by numerous contributors and other trusted sources, which naturally made them customer-focused. 

Second, IMDb started with volunteers who were film fans and enthusiasts from several countries. 

When they became incorporated, they didn’t accept any outside investment money at all.

They purchased their first web server on a credit card and sold their first piece of advertising a couple of weeks later. They paid off the credit card balance before the bill came due.

“We were naturally frugal. We only spend money on things that matter to customers,” said Needham. 

The founder/Photo via via IMDb’s official website

Film Dates

Needham and his wife were already proud parents of twins who are now in their late 20s. 

“Back when the twins were young, it was easier to find a babysitter in the daytime. My wife and I began this tradition of always going to the cinema every Tuesday lunchtime together,” said Needham. 

Now that they have a home cinema, they continue to watch a film every Tuesday, especially during the lockdown.  

“I have the IMDb app and I rate every film on IMDb after watching it and keep track of what I’ve seen,” said the founder. 

From Jan.1, 1980 to July 28, 2021, Needham had watched 13,447 films. 

And that doesn’t include second and subsequent viewings. 

“I only count my first viewing of each film. So my 50+ viewings of Vertigo only count as one of those 13,447 films.”

Banner photo by Irham Setyaki via Unsplash.

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