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What is a Blockbuster?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 23, 2024
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Blockbusters are entertainment products that are understood to generate interest and profits above and beyond similar products in the same time period. Originally associated with the financial performance of a stage play, a blockbuster today more often refers to a motion picture that attracts a great deal of attention and makes a great deal of money. Over time, several basic traits have come to be identified with any successful film before the product is understood to be a blockbuster.

One of the essential factors for any blockbuster is the amount of profits that the venture makes for the producers and owners of the work. In the case of a movie, a blockbuster is understood to generate profits of no less than $100,000,000.00 in United States currency. Generally, this figure must be earned within a relatively short period of time, such as a couple of months. Further, the profits must be generated within the North American market, rather than worldwide.

A second but less important trait of a blockbuster is an amount of enduring appeal. Even after the successful movie has completed a first run in the theaters, the property continues to be a moneymaker through video sales and Internet downloads. Over time, the blockbuster may eventually be regarded as a classic, due to the continued interest that is evidenced by succeeding generations through these sales.

Last, a true blockbuster often generates a strong reaction from movie critics. The reviews may be glowing or strongly condemning, but in all cases the finished product evokes a decisive reaction. In turn, the public may or may not agree with the assessment of the professional critics. Some blockbusters have been uniformly panned by critics, but enthusiastically embraced by the public.

While a blockbuster tends to be understood as a successful motion picture, the term is still used in theater circles as well. A blockbuster play demonstrates some of the same traits as successful movies, in that the play will generate high attendance at performances and maintains a great deal of momentum and interest over the long term. In either application, the designation of any movie or stage production as a blockbuster means that the appeal and interest by the public is above and beyond the majority of similar productions.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including WiseTour, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By Chmander — On May 20, 2014

@RoyalSpyder - Agreed. Very good point. Adding onto that, in the second to last paragraph, notice how it says that blockbusters cause strong reactions from critics. To be honest, I also feel that the reaction doesn't always have to be positive either. It could gain a controversial or heated reaction, especially if there are scenes depicting violence against women. For example, have you ever seen a movie called The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo?

By RoyalSpyder — On May 19, 2014

In relation to the third paragraph, I like how it mentions that a lot of blockbusters have a sense of appeal. Adding onto that, let's look at it this way. Whenever people mention blockbusters, have you noticed that they're usually referring to the big summer movies?

For example, movies like Man of Steel and Godzilla (2014) could be considered just that, since they're highly anticipated summer movies, with a large scale budget. On the other hand, you wouldn't hear people refer to some of the minor holiday movies (Christmas with the Kranks) as blockbusters.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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