Why is a Stage Breaking Movie Named Blockbuster?

Blockbuster films are a term used to describe films that are capable of achieving extraordinary collections, compared to the production costs that have been released.

However, judging from the aspect of language alone, the ‘blockbuster’ sounds as if it is not at all related to any film industry terms or phrases. A ‘block’ is a ‘block’ or ‘a group of buildings’ and a ‘buster’ is similar to something that breaks or blows something up. So ‘blockbuster’ literally means something that breaks a block or building. Why is this rather loud-sounding term used to describe a movie that ‘explodes’ in cinemas?

The origins of the second world war

When it comes to blowing up this building, surely you think the term ‘blockbuster’ has anything to do with the war, right?

The origins of the second world war

That’s right! The term was used for the first time officially in any publication, in a TIME magazine article published on November 29, 1942.

In the article, the author named the bombs used by the alliance forces to destroy strategic areas controlled by the Italian fascist army as a ‘blockbuster’ due to its capabilities. The bomb is said to have the power to wipe out entire building blocks in the city with just one attack.

Following the popularity of World War II-related articles on U.S. citizens, the term began to be used as a metaphor to refer to something explosive and shocking.

From news to movies

The use of the term ‘blockbuster’ instead of referring to the power of the bomb, began to be used to refer to the sensational news published by the media.

So much so that all the news about a sensational court decision or a sports athlete who showed an outstanding performance was labeled as a ‘blockbuster.’ The understanding of ‘blockbuster’ as something sensational, eventually slammed into the phrase to describe the film – yet in a different context.

In an article on May 9, 1943, a film entitled Mission to Moscow was described as featuring extreme elements – so the film was labeled a ‘blockbuster’ or highly sensational film.

This suggests that initially, the term was not used to refer to the stage-breaking quotes we use today but rather to continue the popular understanding of American society of the time, where anything sensational would be labeled a blockbuster.

Popular movies began to be labeled blockbusters

Following the popularity of this term, more and more writers began to use the term blockbuster to predict the rate of popularity of a film to be released.

The first use of the term to represent the level of popularity of a film was recorded in the British Daily Mirror in 1950, telling of the release of the film ‘Samson and Delilah’ which was expected to be a blockbuster.

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