Yesterday, I published an infographic that I pieced together with the help of IMDb’s advanced search engine. As much as anything, I wanted it to stand alone a little bit as a quick reference for some facts that I found interesting. But there’s a lot of room to dig a little deeper in what I found.
The first thing that jumped out at me was the sheer volume of films in the database from 2000-present compared to the other decades. There are a total of 120,822 films in the database that were made since the beginning of the 21st century. For a point of contrast, you could add every feature film and documentary in the database from 1900 to 1959… and it’s still not as many as are in the database from 2000 to the present. Leading the way in the current batch (2000-present) is the documentary genre. Documentaries alone account for 52% of the current batch of films. I think there are a few meaningful conclusions to be drawn from that.
The first and easiest conclusion is simply that there are probably a lot of films that were made from 1900 until the inception of IMDb that haven’t made the database. The people who run IMDb, of course, are extraordinarily thorough. Still, if you made a movie at any point since the inception of IMDb until today, you realize the importance of having it in the database for recognition. People who made films before 1990, and even into the 1990s before IMDb came to prominence, couldn’t market their film in that way. There probably aren’t many people advocating for an under-the-radar film from 1930, making IMDb aware of its existence.
The second and much larger meaningful conclusion is that more and more films are being made because the technology has become so much more accessible by the mainstream population. If you can get ahold of a camera, some film editing software, and have the passion, you can make your own movie. Make a documentary and you don’t even need a cast. It’s guerilla filmmaking. People with ideas and hopes aren’t stuck in some A Star is Born world where they have to move to Hollywood and then get extremely lucky before they can take part. Power to the people, and so forth.
What I found fascinating while digging through the numbers is how obvious some of the facts were, and yet it’s great to see it show up in the numbers. Whenever there’s been a war, war films have enjoyed a bump. They took on a huge spike in the 1940s, reaching a genre high of 5.49% of the market. They dipped, but held strong at 2.8%, throughout the 50s and 60s before sinking to a genre low (in the modern era) at 1.3% in the 1990s. Then after 9/11 and Iraq, it’s bumped again in the last 12 years, jumping to 1.76%. Westerns have had a steady decline to the point of near extinction. The Western genre went from 7.33% in the 20s; 6.01% in the 30s; 7.33% again in the 40s; then 4.26, then 2.97, then 1.81 from the 1950s through 1970s. Now, it’s barely holding on at 0.35%.
As huge as Pixar and Disney have been through the years, I was surprised that animation rated so low (I excluded the genre from the chart). It’s at an all-time high right now, 1.57% in the 2000s. And that’s 1.57%. There are less animated films being made than war movies, and that’s with animation at an all-time high. Predictably, the advent of Disney in the 20s and 30s helped usher in a spike. And for the most part, it’s steadily grown ever since. But it has a long way to go before it reaches the volume of films from most other genres.
Three other genres have held firm for a very long time. They’re the foundation for studios. Drama hasn’t dipped below 23% since 1900-1919, while simultaneously never exceeding 31%. Over just about any decade, you’re going to see approximately 1/4th of the films fit into the drama genre. The same can be said for comedy, which has registered between 13 and 18% every decade since 1930. And then there’s horror, the step-child of the genres. Horror has stayed steady between 2 and 4.5% every decade since the 1960s. Move forward a decade to the 1970s, and those figures for horror are 2.95% and 4.34%. It doesn’t have a huge audience, but it does have a devoted audience.
I was also very surprised to find that 31.8% of the films in the database were American. I honestly would’ve expected a larger figure, somewhere around half. Instead, 68.2% of all films in the database are non-American films. And that’s a great thing. That’s the reason I included it in the infographic. Lest anyone believe that the US has a stranglehold on filmmaking, there’s proof that there are loads of other films out there in other languages.
I’ve only just scratched the surface with the search feature. I look forward to using it a lot more moving forward.