I read this morning that Deadpool 2 won the box office over the weekend setting a record for opening ticket sales for a R rated movie. That means people will call it a blockbuster – but why do they call it that?
The first use of the term ‘blockbuster’ was during World War 2 to describe a bomb that could level a full city block. In 1942 newspapers reported that the Germans feared the 2 ton bombs being dropped by the British Royal Airforce and called them block busters for their overwhelming destructive power. Almost immediately the word began to evolve to include almost anything that was big or exciting. Dictionary.com refers to an article confirming the evolution in the Showmen’s Trade Review on July 3rd of 1943 where the word referred to something other than an actual bomb in a headline, “Blockbuster Hail Stones Cost Theatreman $150 for New Roof.”
Show business loved a term that labelled something big and exciting and movie marketers really stepped up to claim a word that telegraphs a real WOW factor. In 1954, a movie executive wrote an article for a film industry magazine defining a blockbuster to describe a film that grossed at least $2 million in the U.S. and Canada.
The term ‘blockbuster’ seems to have joined the more common lexicon with the release of Jaws in the summer of 1975. The term evolved again to refer to a cultural phenomenon – a fast paced, exciting entertainment that becomes a common topic of conversation and inspiring repeated viewings.
So here’s to the first blockbuster – Jaws – and a summer full of more great movies!