Question – Should the standard be changed? Answer – Yes!

Blockbusters may not be what they used to be
More movies reached “blockbuster” status ó grossing $100 million at the box office ó in 2003 than ever before.
But should that impress anyone? Ticket prices keep rising, and the cost to make and market a film keeps going up (now an average $89.4 million, according to the Motion Picture Association of America). So crossing that milestone doesn’t mean what it used to: It takes fewer moviegoers to get there, and getting there doesn’t automatically mean moneymaker.
Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, for instance, took in $100.8 million. Trouble is, the film cost more than $160 million to produce and promote.
Though films like that can recoup their losses internationally and on video and DVD, many analysts and even studio executives say that it’s time to redefine the term “blockbuster” ó or throw it out. Some argue that the label should be reserved for movies that take in $200 million because that remains rarefied air: Six movies topped that mark in 2003.
Russell Schwartz, marketing chief for New Line Cinema, says even $200 million might not be a true measure. “Movies cost so much to make and market … it’s hard to say something is a hit just because it reaches a certain level of sales.”
Many still maintain that $100 million remains a valid measure of success. The 25 films that took in more than $100 million last year brought in almost half of all ticket sales, according to box office trackers Nielsen EDI.
“No matter how you cut it, that’s a lot of money,” says Paul Dergarabedian of box office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations. “It’s big. And to me, that’s the definition of a blockbuster.”
Origin of ‘the blockbuster’
Coined by the British military during World War II, “blockbusters” were aerial bombs dropped on German cities during raids. Similar to “bunker busters” used in attacks on Iraq, blockbusters were so named because the bombs ó some in excess of 8,000 pounds ó could level entire city blocks.
By the 1960s, the term made made its way into British playhouses, referring to plays that were so popular that they drew lines of theatergoers around the block.
The first Hollywood blockbuster was 1975’s Jaws. With its $12 million budget and an unprecedented $4.5 million advertising campaign, Jaws was the first film released on 465 screens on the same date. Universal studios broke from the traditional practice of releasing a high-profile film in a few markets for a few months, then gradually rolling it out to other theaters across the country. It raked in a then-astonishing $7.1 million on its opening weekend. Billed as a “summer blockbuster,” the film crossed the $100 million mark within a month. After two releases it took in $260 million, then the highest-grossing film of all time.
Blocking blockbusters: Bad word of mouth
What’s a surefire way to topple an expected movie monolith? Bad buzz. Just ask the Hulk. Director Ang Lee spent $120 million on his computer-generated angry antihero. But after a strong $62.1 million opening weekend, Hulk went into a sulk its second weekend and went on to make just $132.2 million.
Box office watcher’s tip: A drop in box office of 50% or more from opening weekend is a sign that people who saw it the first weekend didn’t have good things to tell their friends.
Blockbusters this year that opened big but fell off badly:
The Matrix Reloaded ($91.8 million)
Hulk ($62.1 million)
The Matrix Revolutions ($48.5 million)
2 Fast 2 Furious ($50.5 million)
Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle ($37.6 million).