IMDB: The Ultimate Word of Mouth

Before the internet, one of the ways people decided what movies to watch was through “word of mouth”. Family, friends, neighbors, work associates etc. would talk about a movie they had seen recently that they really liked. If enough people mentioned the same movie it became a movie that you wanted to see as well.

Today, IMDB (Internet Movie DataBase) is the ultimate “word of mouth” source of feedback on a movie.  From its 60 million registered users, ratings are generated for over 3.4 million movies, TV shows, and episodes of TV shows. (Since this is a movie selection blog I’ll stick to the website’s movie benefits.) After completing the free IMDB registration, users can vote for a movie they’ve seen on a 1 to 10 scale, with 10 being the highest.  From all of the ratings, IMDB compiles an average rating for each movie, with some controls in place to prevent ballot stuffing. So, instead of getting “word of mouth” feedback from a few family and friends, IMDB provides you with feedback from movie watchers from around the globe. If, for example, your movie choice for the evening is between Saving Private Ryan and Life is Beautiful, IMDB provides you with feedback from over 835,000 people for Saving Private Ryan and over 315,000 for Life is Beautiful. But, here is where it gets a little bit tricky. Both of these World War II related movies have an average rating of 8.6. They are both great movies. Which movie will you enjoy more? It depends on how “average” you are.

Because of the volume and diversity of IMDB viewers, the average rating for a movie may not be a demographic fit for you. While the two movies being considered have the same average rating,  the average rating for United States IMDB voters is 8.8 for Saving Private Ryan and 8.4 for Life is Beautiful. The average rating for female IMDB voters is 8.9 for Life is Beautiful and 8.1 for Saving Private Ryan.  Having this information puts a new perspective on which movie you’d prefer to watch.

One of the first of the many useful features available on IMDB that you should become familiar with is the capability to look at a demographic split of the votes that go into a specific rating for a specific movie. This feature is not available directly from the IMDB phone app. It can only be accessed on the website. But, if you go to the bottom of the page for the movie that you pulled up on the phone app, there is a link to the website page for the movie. When you access the movie on the website it will provide you with the average rating for the movie. Right next to the average rating it will show you the number of votes the rating is based on, or how much “word of mouth” feedback you’re getting on this movie. If you click on the number of votes, a page opens up with all of the demographic data behind the feedback population. It tells you how women rated the movie vs. men. It tells you how different age groups rated the movie. It splits US and non-US voters. In a nutshell, it gives you the opportunity to see how the group most like you rated the movie. It’s also a good tool to use when you are trying to select a movie for a group of people to watch.

Author: Mad Movie Man

I love good movies. In my prior life I worked with predictive models. I've combined my love of movies with my prior experience to create a simple Bayesian probability model to help select movies that you will probably "really like".

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