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A blockbuster , even event movie , mainstream film or A-Movie , rare A film , as rhetorical analogy to B-movie , referred to in the media reporting very commercially successful feature films with high grossing English as Box Office referred. The meaning here in the figurative sense can best be translated as “audience hit” , “ street sweeper ”, “ box office hit” or “blockbuster”. Blockbusters are often four-quadrant movies that appeal to both genders and all ages equally. Due to the financial success that goes with it, blockbusters serve as " tentpoles " (tent poles) for a film production company and can thus compensate for losses caused by less successful films as "props".

The name was originally used for an aerial bomb ( air mine ) in World War II , with which an entire block of flats could be destroyed (literally: "block of flats-cracker") . A first evidence of the visual use can be found in the Oxford English Dictionary from 1942 (“A block-buster of an idea for a musical play ”) . Since the 1970s, the term has been used for films that, initially literally, attracted so many audiences that queues formed “around the block” or, with their success, “blocked” the cinemas. According to Hans Scheugl , on the other hand, the origin of the term may lie in the common practice, particularly in the 1930s and 1940s, that film production companies required cinema owners to book several films en bloc . These block bookings were linked to fixed time windows when a film would be shown. If the unexpected success of a film resulted in a longer playing time, the originally planned block was broken up (busted) .

On the other hand, a film that is not very successful and that does not return its costs is called a “ flop ” or “box office bomb”.


The term didn't become popular until the late 1950s and early 1960s. He then referred to large-scale productions which, through great expense, brought about commercial success in a calculated manner. This was done through new advertising strategies that loudly announced previously unheard of production sums and box office results as well as the stars' fees and advertised new technologies ( Cinerama , Vistavision , 70 mm). Those blockbusters between 1959 and 1966 included films like Ben Hur , Spartacus , West Side Story , Lawrence of Arabia , The Greatest Story Ever, and The Bible . Cleopatra was the culmination of this development in 1963 and at the same time heralded its end. With the New American Cinema these splendid money machines and fortresses got out of focus against the competition of the small television screen. The term “blockbuster” has been used in its usual form since the film The Great White Shark was released .


Because of the strong focus on the commercial and marketing aspect - which is reflected in the intention, content, form and design of the films - the so-called blockbuster cinema is sometimes viewed critically. Since the productions have to recoup their considerable costs, it is not uncommon for the films to be fixated on merchandising , stars as well as proven plot motifs and plots . The reason for this is less to be found in the film production companies: Since the majority of the audience is new, experimental forms of representation, unknown faces and alternative narrative strategies i. d. Usually worse, there is hardly any leeway for this content. Accordingly, problematic, (socially) critical or other unpopular subjects are rarely used. However, since blockbuster cinema corresponds to popular culture , the impression arises that the main task of films is to entertain, but this does not necessarily have to be the case. Paradigmatic , this contrast has now also in the cinema landscape by the differentiation of cinemas and multiplex cinemas manifested.

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: Blockbuster  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Eric Partridge et al .: blockbuster. In: Diess. (Ed.): The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, Volume 1 . Routledge, New York 2006, ISBN 978-0-415-25937-8 , p. 188.
  2. block-buster, n. , In: Oxford English Dictionary (online edition), (restricted access, accessed June 23, 2013).
  3. : Encyclopedia of film terms - Blockbuster, accessed on May 23, 2014
  4. Hans Scheugl: Wikibuster Goes blockbuster. In: 2013, accessed on October 10, 2017 .
  5. ^ Penelope Houston and John Gillett: The Theory and Practice of Blockbusting . In: Sight & Sound . The international film magazine , vol. 32 (1963), Spring, ISSN  0037-4806 .
  6. : Lehrmaterial Filmsprachliches Glossar - Blockbuster, accessed on May 23, 2014