I suggest you ...

Find an alternative to TMDb

TMDb regularly gets in the way of my enjoyment of Letterboxd. My Watchlist is mostly made up of new releases. They’re added to my list when I see the trailer, which is usually in advance of their release. Nine times out of ten, TMDb doesn’t yet have the movie listed, which means I have to go through the somewhat laborious process of adding it myself, and then wait several hours for Letterboxd to be able to see it. (The same thing usually happens when I want to add a festival screening to my Film Diary.) Meanwhile, every piece of information TMDb has or asks for is already available on IMDb, making TMDb a completely redundant experience that offers no additional value. Does IMDb not have an API that Letterboxd can use? I can’t imagine anyone but the most neurotic users going through this much hassle, and it seems like more than an edge case.

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Rob Weychert shared this idea  ·   ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →

Thanks Rob, really value this feedback. The key reason for choosing TMDb over IMDb was cost. The former is free, the latter charges a five-figure sum annually for use of its data by other apps. We haven’t ruled out switching, but as a bootstrapped project it wasn’t something we could take on from the outset.

As an aside, in the short term we plan to add a mechanism to allow instant import from TMDb by entering the ID of a new film. Until that happens feel free to drop a line to hello@letterboxd.com with any TMDb IDs you’d like imported and we’ll do them straight away. Not a perfect solution but hopefully might remove a little of the pain for you.


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  • TheCritic commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    What JoeBloggs said. In TMDB we can change wrong data, add information etc. Just think about the problems you encounter if you want to add a movie poster in IMDB - you have to pay for it! TMDB is the better choice, I think.

  • JoeBloggs commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    To be honest, considering how frequently I bump into erroneous film information on IMdB, I'd rather Letterboxd management stick to relying on TMdB, as adding/editing information on TMdB is a real breeze compared to just how tedious and long that process is on IMdB.

    So yes, it is a hassle. But, in the end, ManInBlack nailed it right on the head: someone has got to do the work.

  • Antonomasia commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    IMDb is owned by Amazon & I suggest you look at the problems Goodreads had with Amazon, eventually having to split from it due to restrictions imposed by the company, which created huge amounts of work for staff and volunteers in having to update the database.
    Letterboxd is a much smaller site which doesn't have thousands of volunteers who are happy to make hundreds of database updates from their own goodwill / OCD so it would seem wise to be cautious about this.

    The main data annoyance on LB I find now is that duplicates are not removed, including a couple I reported last year and noticed recently were still there.

  • Kasper commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    If IMDb is that expensive, but you still need quality data, wouldn't it be more beneficial to hire some teenagers for cheap to weekly update the TMDb database? That would still certainly be cheaper than five figures and assure a certain quality with the database.

    If there isn't enough money in regards to Letterboxd to pay for such a position, then put a few ads on the site here and there, it's hardly that big a deal, as long as it's subtle.

  • Charles Talibard commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    I completely understand where this is coming from. The biggest issue I have with letterboxd is the quality of the data. Duplicate films, and films with the wrong titles and dates are a reasonably common occurrence.

    Also, the main reason stated for not treating writers as first class citizens alongside actors and directors is that the TMDb data isn't good enough.

    The solution is not to drop TMDb for something else. The solution is to augment and compare the data from TMDb with data from additional sources such as Freebase.

    I have posted a suggestion to this effect.

  • ManInBlack commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    I don't have a huge problem with TMDb and do somewhat agree with the slog of adding films on TMDb in order to add them on Letterboxd (but hey, someone has got to do it right?) but there is one issue that irks my OCD-driven sensibilities and that is inaccurate release dates. Whenever the US release date is added on TMDb to a non-Hollywood (i.e foreign language) film which was released internationally first, LB defaults to the US release date instead.

    For example: Murnau's "Nosferatu" was made and released in 1922 and is listed as such in every film almanac,website, history book, etc, yet on LB it was (until it was changed) listed as a 1929 film because of the US release date overruled the original year of the film's release.

    I don't know on which side the fault lies but it is one that is likely to cause plenty of confusion and inaccuracies on the LB database (as well as irking pedants like me!). If this is an LB issue is this something which can be investigated or should it be taken up with TMDb?

    Thanks for a great site btw! :).

  • Pedro Abreu commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    There´s a lot of issues by using tmdb, but... like it´s been said it´s free.. my opinion on this is simple : retrieve the movie info from tmdb the first time, and then let letterboxd users do the necessary changes ( if something needs to be changed.. )

  • AdminMatthew Buchanan (CEO / Founder, Letterboxd) commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    @Ivo We've run into that issue too, and the solution is documented here:


    It seems that TMDb sometimes stores multiple IMDb IDs for a film, even though it only shows the latest one added. If you remove / save / replace / save the IMDb ID on the offending film, this clears out any old ones that are causing clashes, allowing you to use the ID on the film you’re trying to add.

    It doesn't solve the wider issue, but at least that will allow you to add films without seeing errors.

    Oh, we hope so too!

  • Lise commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    I don't know if this can be done, but what about allowing us to enter films that aren't in the database yet as placeholders of sorts. If there isn't a hit on letterboxd, there could be an option to "add as placeholder" that asks us for the title, original title (if foreign), the year and imdb number. Then when the film finally does make its way into letterboxd via tmdb it connects to these placeholders and replaces with the film info..

  • Ivo Mulder commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    I strongly agree with Rob. Besides the arduous process of adding movies, 8 times out of ten I am simply unable to add new ones. Take for example "when the lights went out", tt1743993 on IMDB. When trying to add this movie I get an error saying "Imdb is already taken by Speak No Evil (ID: 50497)". I am yet to receive an answer from TmdB on what these errors mean... Same thing happened with Temmink: The Ultimate Fight and many others... I hope one day those five figures will be pocketchange for Letterboxd!

  • Rob Weychert commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    Free versus five figures certainly is a compelling argument! Thanks for the response, Matthew!


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