April 13, 2024

James Cameron he’s done it again — 13 years after his release Avatarand since 26 Titanic gave us Leonardo DiCaprio tragically dying clutching a wooden door, Avatar: The Way of Water It has won 5 films of all time. The sequence is only the third of the first AvatarThe one that came out in 2009, and in 2019 Avengers: Endgame. Cameron has proven himself to be the true king of blockbusters, a title once reserved for filmmakers. Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. But what does this title mean, blockbuster king? What is a blockbuster? And when did we start calling them high-grossing, crowd-pleasing pictures, for example Avatar and Avengers blockbusters?


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For the modern moviegoer, the term has become synonymous with big franchise films, and there’s no doubting its meaning: a blockbuster is a movie that has people lining up on the block to see it, buying tickets in advance and camping out in line. to make sure they can get a good seat. It’s an increasingly rare sight in our current streaming age, but one that remains alive in our imaginations. However, pinpointing exactly when the first blockbuster movie came out can be difficult. Many say it was 1975, when Spielberg unleashed a killer shark on our collective consciousness. Jaws. However, the real story behind the blockbuster is more complex than that…

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The term Blockbuster first appeared in the 1940s

Fred MacMurray and Claudette Colbert in the 1943 film No Time For Love.

According to the media studies teacher Charles R. Acland, the term blockbuster was coined during World War II. At the time, newspapers used it to refer to the “new, large 4,000-pound bombs dropped by Allied forces on enemy cities.” After the war, the word became descriptive of films with “large production budgets, elaborate promotional campaigns, and significant box office results.” Only one of these elements is necessary for a film to be considered a blockbuster, Acland says, which is why we often hear about low-budget blockbusters and box office bombs.

However, according to Acland, many researchers point to the religious epic boom of the 1950s as the origin of the term blockbuster as it is used today. The teacher highlighted the 1951 review Mervyn LeRoy‘s Quo Vadis? Posted by The variety which made the film a “taxilane blockbuster”. However, the term began to appear in the entertainment industry in the 1940s. But, at least as far as we know, it was first referred to as media. blockbuster was not a movie, but a book: a print advertisement Air raid on Germany He described it as “a blockbuster of a book”. It was a joke, according to Acland, that the book devoted some of its pages to the military use of successful bombs. In cinematography, the term appeared for the first time in 1943, a counter the piece described Mitchell Leisen‘s No time for love as a “comedy blockbuster”.

This, Acland says, meant that not all blockbusters of the era were spectacular productions, such as the religious epics that come to mind when we think of the commercial hits of the 1950s. In fact, the use of the term was much more common in advertisements for smaller genre films such as 1952. Atomic city. In fact, The variety he says that the real blockbusters of the 50s were not technicolor spectacles of biblical proportions, for example. Ben-Hur or The Ten Commandmentsbut he does it like a monster Godzilla, They!and most importantly The Beast of 20,000 Fathoms. Released in 1953, the beast It was a low-budget film that ushered in a new era of film distribution with the massive use of radio and television commercials. The film, which cost only $210,000, grossed $5 million and ushered in the era of monster movies in the US.

How ‘Jaws’ became the so-called First Blockbuster

Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfus in Jaws
Image via Universal Pictures

But even with all this rich history behind the term, there are still many who claim it as Spielberg’s Jaws It was the first film to break the barriers around movie theaters in America. This is not without reason. Released in the summer of 1975, Jaws It was the first film to gross over $235 million at the box office. By the end of its original run, it had earned $260 million in the US, and $470 million worldwide. The story of a small beach town terrorized by a bloodthirsty shark also spent 14 consecutive weeks at No. 1.

Jaws he also made history for his advertising strategy. At the time of the film’s original release, Universal went all-in with 30-second spots on prime-time television, and the distributor devoted a large portion of its $2 million marketing budget to it. The campaign also included speaking tours, marketing tie-ins and numerous test screenings. Viewers were encouraged to read the original Peter Benchley on that novel Carl Gottlieb based the script of the film. This general million dollar strategy is being imitated by distributors today. Spielberg’s first big hit also heralded the beginning of the franchise era through its many sequels, cementing the summer months as the perfect time to release spectacular big-budget films. So while it’s not entirely appropriate to call it Jaws has first A Hollywood blockbuster, the film still holds its place in the history of the “genre” as before the summer blockbuster

Also, in the 1970s, Hollywood faced one of its many crises, unprepared to compete with television and meet the expectations of the hordes of young viewers born 20 years earlier, during the baby boom. As often happens whenever an industry goes through a crisis, this led to a lot of experimentation and eventually led to a consolidation of the market. The 70s was a time for directors inspired by European authors, for example Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppolato develop their own style and create high-end American classics, for example Raging bull and godfather. However, it was also a time for studios looking for new ways to make money, and they found it in big-budget blockbusters, for example. Jaws and of course Star Wars. By the end of the decade, in the battle between creators and studio shows, it was clear who won. However godfather which eventually got a third sequel in 1990, they were big money makers and eye-catchers with great potential for toy lines that became the new face of Hollywood. In that sense, Jaws It may not be the first American blockbuster, but it is certainly the most important.

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