You'll Never Guess Where The Word "Blockbuster" Actually Comes From

As the weather gets unbearably warm, movie theaters lure us to their air-conditioned darkness with promises of sequels, stunts, and lots of actions. Ah, yes: I’m talking about the summer blockbuster. The candy of cinema, blockbusters are designed to titillate, and not necessarily to provoke deep thoughts. In the dog days of summer, there’s nothing better than shutting off your brain for awhile and watching Baby Groot dance.
While blockbusters themselves tend to be predictable, the actual term “blockbuster” has a surprising origin. Considering just how violent many of these movies can be, perhaps we shouldn’t be taken aback that the word “blockbuster” has its roots in wartime.
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Some people collect television trivia. Others can identify all the Pokémon in a Pokedex. And then, there are people like me, who listen to etymology podcasts and know far too much about words. So here’s a gift from me to you. Add it to your little library of useless information.
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The word “blockbuster” initially described a WWII weapon.

Blockbusters were once bombs — specifically, bombs that could bust entire blocks. Designed by the British Royal Air Force, the bombs weighed 2 tons and measured 6 feet long.

On July 27, 1942, The Bellingham Herald ran the headline, “Those ‘Big, Beautiful’ Bombs Are Called ‘Block Busters’ By Germans.” It was the first time "blockbuster" was used.

So, we can thank the Germans and their penchant for compound words for the term "blockbuster."
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After WWII, the meaning was entirely disconnected from weaponry.

“Blockbuster” was typically used to describe something big, grand, or explosive (metaphorically speaking).
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Movie marketers took note.

The people who especially loved this new term? Movie marketers, who sought exciting language to punch up excitement about their films.

In 1954, Film Bulletin ventured to guess why “blockbuster” became associated with the movie biz. The article reads, “From exploitation-minded vice-president Youngstein came the term ‘block-buster’ to describe attractions that gross at least $2,000,000 in the U.S. and Canada.”

Adjusted for inflation, that’s the equivalent of $17.5 million today.
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So, you can dispel this urban legend.

There’s another conjecture that “blockbuster” originated from films so successful that they “busted the block,” as though the city block outside the theater couldn’t handle the audience volume. Now you know that's not entirely true.
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What does blockbuster mean today?

Currently, a blockbuster is typically a Hollywood movie with a large budget, starry cast, and the potential for raking in quite a profit.

Yes, that includes anything involving Baby Groot.
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