What is the Opposite of a Blockbuster?

In movies, the opposite of a blockbuster is a bomb: no prizes for getting that answer right. But look a little further into the background of the word blockbuster and it gets more interesting.

Blockbuster is a fairly young word whose meaning evolved almost as soon as it was coined. In film jargon, a blockbuster is a movie produced on a grand scale and earning a massive following. Queues of film-goers snaking out of the cinema are associated with blockbusters. The earliest films to be branded this way were in the 1970s: Jaws and Star Wars are among the first examples.

Previously, blockbuster was used in the theatre, describing a play with a very successful season: a smash hit, which indicates the true origin of the word. The earliest known use of the word blockbuster dates back to the 1940s and is a colloquial reference to a bomb. Wikipedia states:

The term began to appear in the American press in the early 1940s, at first describing the largest of aerial bombs, and later–by extension–referring to anything making a (figurative) public impact

This means that in a few short decades, the word blockbuster (literally, a bomb) has evolved to meaning the opposite of itself (a cinematic bomb).

Archived under Culture.

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