The Genealogy of the Modern Blockbuster
The paper is a translation of a chapter in a book Genre and Contemporary Hollywood, ed. by Steve Neale, 2002, London: BFI Publishing. (The full title of the paper is: ’Tall Revenue Features: The Genealogy of the Modern Blockbuster’. The paper is published by the author’s and editor’s permission). The term ’blockbuster’ is typically used to refer to a film which is extraordinarily successful in financial terms, or aimed at such a success. Blockbusters are distinguished partly by their exceptionalism, their status as an economic category different from and ’above’ the normal run of general releases. Although the term has entered common parlance in recent times to describe the kind of cinema associated with the dominant commercial forms of modern, mainstream, ’post-studio’ Hollywood, the blockbuster phenomenon can be traced to an old tradition of exceptionally successful and exceptionally expensive films that have featured in the US industry’s annual release schedules and box-office charts. Blockbusters require heavy investment in production, but also specific marketing and distribution strategies. Generalizing broadly, there have been two distribution patterns typically associated with the release of blockbusters: road showing and saturation mass booking. In road show pattern films would open on a limited or exclusive basis in a major metropolitan center for an extended or indefinite run at raised prices, and this ’premiere run’ would be followed by a general release. Saturation pattern involves heavy advertising in advance of film opening, followed by a ’blanket release’ — a wide simultaneous release of a great number of prints (from 500 to 3000) nationwide. This second pattern promised a quicker pay-offs of heavy investments into blockbuster production and advertising. The paper traces the historical changes in each of this pattern, elucidating the historical changes in reception, production and marketing at the same time.
ANALITICAL CONTENTS: Roadshows; New Patterns of production and consuption; Blocbuster trends in the ’New’ Hollywood