AFI Catalog FAQ

Q: Why are there not many recent films in the Catalog?
A: AFI Catalog, published by ProQuest in collaboration with the American Film Institute (AFI), is the result of AFI's research project that strives to be comprehensive in its coverage of American films. Researchers at the AFI have so far covered the years 1893-1974 comprehensively, with additional records for selected major films from later years (primarily, those covered by the AFI’s 100 Years and Top Ten lists).

Q: Have all of the films been viewed by the AFI staff?
A: About 85% of the films produced since 1931 have been viewed by the Catalog staff. The viewed film icon next to the film's title indicates that it has been viewed. Most films in the years 1893–1930 and 1961–70 (which were compiled many years ago) were not viewed by AFI researchers.

Q: If a film has not been viewed by the AFI, does that mean that the film no longer exists?
A: No. The AFI Catalog is an historical record of films but is not intended as an index of film availability.

Q: What do the square brackets in the cast and crew mean?
A: Square brackets indicate 'off-screen' credits; that is, the personal name (or for a cast member, a personal name or character name) did not appear in the film's original release print. However, AFI Catalog researchers have determined from contemporary resources such as film reviews, copyright information or studio records that that person worked on the film.

Q: Some credit names (actor or crew member) appear in capitals? Why is this?
A: Any credit names that appeared before the opening titles of a film are included in capital letters.

Q: What exactly do the Premiere and Release dates mean? Why are they different?
A: A premiere date is the first known public showing of a film and precedes the national release date, often by a few days or a few weeks. The release date is the nationwide, American opening for a film. If a specific date is unknown, then either a month and year or only a year are listed.

Q: Most of the films in AFI Catalog are feature films. How does the AFI define a feature film?
A: The AFI Catalog follows the internationally used archival rule that a feature film is at least four reels or 4,000 feet in length or 40 minutes long. All films in the AFI Catalog database are feature films, except for those released between 1893 and 1910.

Q: Sometimes a lead actor is listed below other actors in the cast. Why is this?
A: When a film is viewed and contains cast/character credits, the AFI Catalog lists the cast according to the 'end credits'. The cast/character credits are called end credits because they usually appear at the end of a film. Although lead actors are generally listed first in the opening credits, often they are listed in a different order in the end credits.

Q: I'd like to search for films in which a particular actor featured, but also include results for films in which they acted under alternate names or pseudonyms. How can I do this?
A: This functionality is not currently available in AFI Catalog but we are reviewing it and plan to implement it in a future update of the site.

Q: How does the AFI Catalog staff compose the summaries? Do you give away the ending?
A: After a film is viewed, a member of the AFI Catalog staff composes a summary of the film, from beginning to end. If a film has not been viewed, the summary is based on all available contemporary sources of information on the plot. These are most often copyright or studio records or reviews.

Q: The words "according to modern sources" frequently occur in the "Note" text. What exactly is meant by this?
A: Information in the credits and plot summaries of the entries of the AFI Catalog are only taken from the films themselves or other contemporary sources. Later (modern) historical and biographical books and articles on film may have added more recent information that has not been available to AFI staff members.

Q: Why are there subject headings listed for the films?
A: In order to increase access points for information within the film entries, the AFI Catalog staff has included subject headings for each of the films. By clicking on the subject headings listed, you can access other films with similar themes. "Principal Subjects" headings are the most important themes of the films, while "Additional Subjects" headings are less important.

Q: Why are there different running times for films?
A: Whenever possible, official running times are included. However, running times for many films have been obtained from a variety of sources and often differ. Occasionally, a film is released in different lengths. Consult the Note section of the entries for additional information.

Q: Why are some foreign films included?
A: The AFI Catalog includes entries for films that were co-financed by American companies, produced under the auspices of American companies with overseas headquarters, or shot on location in other countries. In addition, for the years 1893–1910 and 1961–70, many films released – but not produced – in the US were included.

Q: Why are there differences between the printed AFI Catalog and some entries on the Web site?
A: Research on the AFI Catalog database is an ongoing project that is continually updated. Over the 30 years since the first AFI Catalog was published in print form, many additions and corrections have been made. Thousands of new names, titles, citations and miscellaneous facts have been made to the database. Occasionally, format alterations to accommodate new software have also been made.

Q: How do I find out what the abbreviations, such as wrt or prod mean?
A: To obtain a list of abbreviations used in the AFI Catalog, please see our Abbreviations list.