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Blockbuster

Blockbuster

How Hollywood Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Summer

It's a typical summer Friday night and the smell of popcorn is in the air. Throngs of fans jam into air-conditioned multiplexes to escape for two hours in the dark, blissfully lost in Hollywood's latest glittery confection complete with megawatt celebrities, awesome special effects, and enormous marketing budgets. The world is in love with the blockbuster movie, and these cinematic behemoths have risen to dominate the film industry, breaking box office records every weekend. With the passion and wit of a true movie buff and the insight of an internationally renowned critic, Tom Shone is the first to make sense of this phenomenon by taking readers through the decades that have shaped the modern blockbuster and forever transformed the face of Hollywood.
The moment the shark fin broke the water in 1975, a new monster was born. Fast, visceral, and devouring all in its path, the blockbuster had arrived. In just a few weeks Jaws earned more than $100 million in ticket sales, an unprecedented feat that heralded a new era in film. Soon, blockbuster auteurs such as Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and James Cameron would revive the flagging fortunes of the studios and lure audiences back into theaters with the promise of thrills, plenty of action, and an escape from art house pretension.
But somewhere along the line, the beast they awakened took on a life of its own, and by the 1990s production budgets had escalated as quickly as profits. Hollywood entered a topsy-turvy world ruled by marketing and merchandising mavens, in which flops like Godzilla made money and hits had to break records just to break even. The blockbuster changed from a major event that took place a few times a year into something that audiences have come to expect weekly, piling into the backs of one another in an annual demolition derby that has left even Hollywood aghast.
Tom Shone has interviewed all the key participants -- from cinematic visionaries like Spielberg and Lucas and the executives who greenlight these spectacles down to the effects wizards who detonated the Death Star and blew up the White House -- in order to reveal the ways in which blockbusters have transformed how Hollywood makes movies and how we watch them. As entertaining as the films it chronicles, Blockbuster is a must-read for any fan who delights in the magic of the movies.
Choose a format:
  • Free Press | 
  • 352 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743274319 | 
  • December 2004
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1: Panic on the 4th of July

"We entered the bicentennial year having survived some of the bitterest times in our brief history. We longed for something to draw us together again."

-- America's Bicentennial Report, 1976

"She was the first..."

-- Jaws poster, 1975

The final cut of Steven Spielberg's Jaws was unveiled to the world on the night of March 28, 1975, at the Lakewood Theater, in Long Beach, California.

It wasn't the first screening of the film; a rough cut had already been tested in Dallas -- as far away from salt water as possible, to see how the movie would play in the... see more
Introduction: The Boys of Summer

When he was five, Steven Spielberg was taken by his father to see The Greatest Show on Earth, Cecil B. DeMille's movie about the circus -- except he didn't hear his father say the word "movie," only the word "circus." He'd never seen a movie before, but he knew what to expect from a circus: elephants, lions, ringmaster, clowns...After a wait in line for an hour and a half, they entered the theater, and he laid eyes on the row upon row of chairs, all folded up, in front of a blank screen, "nothing but a flat piece of white cardboard, a canvas, and I look at the canvas and suddenly a movie comes on and... see more

About the Author

Tom Shone
Photo Credit:

Tom Shone

Tom Shone was born in Horsham, England, in 1967. From 1994 to 1999 he was the film critic of the London Sunday Times and has since written for a number of publications, including The New Yorker, The New York Times, the London Daily Telegraph, and Vogue. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. This is his first book.

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