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What is a Blockbuster?

A Blockbuster was once a retail giant, synonymous with movie rentals and cozy family nights. Its blue-and-yellow stores were meccas of entertainment, offering a vast selection of films and video games. Despite its decline in the digital age, the Blockbuster brand remains a nostalgic emblem of a bygone era. How did this icon rise and fall? Join us as we explore its story.
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

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.

Movies that earn signficiant amounts of money when released in theaters are considered blockbusters.
Movies that earn signficiant amounts of money when released in theaters are considered blockbusters.

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.

Blockbuster films can be expensive to produce, but they bring in a significant amount of revenue.
Blockbuster films can be expensive to produce, but they bring in a significant amount of revenue.

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.

The Avengers, featuring Iron Man, was a summer blockbuster film.
The Avengers, featuring Iron Man, was a summer blockbuster film.

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

What defines a movie as a "blockbuster"?

A blockbuster may make even more money through Internet downloads.
A blockbuster may make even more money through Internet downloads.

A "blockbuster" typically refers to a film that is highly popular and financially successful, often characterized by a large budget, star-studded cast, and extensive marketing campaigns. Historically, the term originated from a large bomb capable of destroying an entire block during World War II, metaphorically used later to describe movies that had a similarly large impact on audiences and box office sales. A blockbuster is often associated with high box office earnings, sometimes exceeding hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars globally.

How did the term "blockbuster" originate in the context of movies?

Higher production value movies have a greater chance of becoming a blockbuster.
Higher production value movies have a greater chance of becoming a blockbuster.

The term "blockbuster" in the context of movies evolved from its original military usage, which described a bomb capable of destroying a city block. It transitioned to the entertainment industry to denote films that made a significant impact, akin to an explosive success. The term gained popularity in the 1940s when media outlets began using it to describe films that were expected to be hits, and it has since become synonymous with major, high-earning cinematic releases.

What are some common characteristics of blockbuster films?

Blockbuster films often share several common characteristics: they typically have high production and marketing budgets, A-list actors, and are part of a franchise or have wide audience appeal. They usually feature spectacular special effects, action sequences, and are often released during the summer or holiday seasons to maximize attendance. Blockbusters aim to provide a universal form of entertainment that can attract large and diverse audiences worldwide.

How do blockbusters impact the film industry?

Blockbusters have a significant impact on the film industry by driving large box office revenues, which can account for a substantial portion of annual industry earnings. They often set trends in filmmaking, influence pop culture, and can lead to the creation of franchises that generate additional revenue through sequels, merchandise, and other media. However, their high stakes can also lead to a conservative approach in film production, prioritizing proven formulas over innovation.

Can independent films become blockbusters?

While traditionally blockbusters are associated with major studios and large budgets, independent films can achieve blockbuster status if they receive widespread acclaim and achieve substantial box office success. Independent films like "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" and "Slumdog Millionaire" became blockbusters through strong word-of-mouth, critical acclaim, and effective distribution strategies, proving that exceptional content can triumph regardless of the film's origin or budget.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including WiseTour, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

Learn more...
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including WiseTour, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

Learn more...

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Discussion Comments

Chmander

@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?

RoyalSpyder

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.

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    • Movies that earn signficiant amounts of money when released in theaters are considered blockbusters.
      By: Artem Furman
      Movies that earn signficiant amounts of money when released in theaters are considered blockbusters.
    • Blockbuster films can be expensive to produce, but they bring in a significant amount of revenue.
      By: Haider Yousuf
      Blockbuster films can be expensive to produce, but they bring in a significant amount of revenue.
    • The Avengers, featuring Iron Man, was a summer blockbuster film.
      By: 3dilla
      The Avengers, featuring Iron Man, was a summer blockbuster film.
    • A blockbuster may make even more money through Internet downloads.
      By: Ana Blazic Pavlovic
      A blockbuster may make even more money through Internet downloads.
    • Higher production value movies have a greater chance of becoming a blockbuster.
      By: gstockstudio
      Higher production value movies have a greater chance of becoming a blockbuster.