Week of June 21, 2020

The Reel Deal


Though they now appear before a movie, they’re called “trailers” because they originally appeared after the film. The first trailer wasn’t even for a movie, but promoted a live musical called “The Pleasure Seekers.”


Originally, a “blockbuster” was a WWII British bomb powerful enough to destroy a city block. Soon after, the term was adopted to describe a film which grossed revenues of at least $2 million in the US and Canada.


Blockbuster movies often perform well at the “box office.” While the box office is the part of a modern theater which sells tickets to anyone, the term comes from Elizabethan times, when wealthier theater patrons bought tickets to private balcony sections known as “boxes.” Box ticket sales were a good indicator of a play’s financial success, and were sold separately at an office near the theater entrance.


We associate the term “silver screen” with the film world because original movie screens were coated with a reflective metallic paint, since this was better to view the projected images on.


Though popcorn was popular at carnivals since the mid-1800s, the first movie theaters wanted to replicate the experience of live theaters, so didn’t promote snacks like popcorn. However, two big events in US history played a role in the popularization of popcorn in movie theaters. During the Great Depression, the very profitable snack kept many movie theaters in business, since it was both cheap for the cash-strapped movie goers to buy and even cheaper for the theaters to acquire. During WWII, more sugary foods were sent to the soldiers, and traditional growing regions like the Philippines were cut off from the US market, so popcorn didn’t have to compete much with sweeter snacks, further maintaining its theater dominance.


“Jaws” was the film that, in 1975, created the model for the summer blockbuster, setting the stage for its release with well-timed promotion, merchandising, and release of the soundtrack and source novel. Before Jaws, film audiences typically went to movies in the winter, and the summer was a box office “dead zone.”