The Summer Hollywood Blockbuster Phenomenon

The Summer Hollywood Blockbuster Phenomenon

Along with the warm summer sun, the Hollywood blockbusters are beginning to come to theaters. According to, summer blockbusters in 2015 raked in 4.48 billion dollars, which is the second largest summer box office total of all time and only behind the box office success of summer 2013, which grossed a staggering 4.7 billion dollars. Very few stop and think about the origin of the summer blockbuster phenomenon, while they walk into the newest Marvel spinoff, the most recent buddy cop comedy, or the next venture for the “Fast and Furious” crew.

In order to accurately trace the origins of this situation, one would have to look in an unfamiliar spot. In 1948, the Supreme Court presided over the case United States v. Paramount Pictures. The case was an antitrust lawsuit, which the United States won. After the landmark decision, Hollywood studios began to lose a significant amount of revenue and many almost collapsed. But twenty years later the Nixon administration and his conservation successors favored the large Hollywood studios and offered tax breaks that lead to the boom of the large Hollywood studios in the mid-1970’s. Studios like Paramount, Universal, Warner Brothers, and Columbia began making films that would attract wider audiences and thus commenced the age of the summer Hollywood blockbuster.

June 1975 saw the release of the Steven Spielberg classic “Jaws,” which is widely considered the first summer blockbuster ever. The film had an American audience of 65 million people and a revenue of 260 million dollars. But adjusted for inflation, the film grossed over 2 billion dollars. In 1977, a film franchise that is still wildly successful would be launched and that is “Star Wars.” “Star Wars” grossed 460 million dollars, which adjusted for inflation equates to almost 3 billion dollars. To date, the Star Wars franchise releases new films that win big at the box office and its latest installment, “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens”, grossed 936 million dollars last winter.

As film studios understood the monetary success of the blockbuster, they began producing more generalized films that were simply intended to make the studio money. The blockbusters of that era lead to a surge in independent films in the 1990’s, but the summer blockbuster still remains at the cornerstone of Hollywood today.

But why are summer blockbusters important? It’s not like no one has ever seen a superhero or an action comedy blockbuster. Why does it matter? It matters because if we are to be informed film consumers, then we shouldn’t accept films with cliche plots and an excess of computer generated effects; every year, we validate such films by giving them ridiculous box office earnings. “San Andreas” was released last year and received almost unanimous negative critical reception, yet had box office showing of 155 million dollars. In comparison, the 2016 Academy Best Picture winner, “Spotlight,” which was praised by critics, only grossed 45 million dollars in box office revenue.

Though the first summer blockbusters were made without negative intent, the summer blockbuster has spawned into an easy cash-grab for studios without any regard for content. The blockbuster phenomenon has left many avid moviegoers disappointed and yearning for the blockbusters of the past. Watching a film should be more than just two hours of entertainment to escape the summer heat: it should be meaningful, entertaining art.