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The History Of The Summer Blockbuster

Summertime usually means blockbusters at the movie theater. But where did the term and tradition come from? Join us as we explore the history of the summer blockbuster. What films started it all? What changes led to it becoming such a powerhouse season for Hollywood? And what does the future hold for summer blockbusters? We’ll answer all these questions and more! So, whether you’re a film historian or just an average movie fan interested in learning more about your favorite pastime, keep reading!

Ready to go the movies now?


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The summer blockbuster began with a story about a “little” shark

While we can see the idea of a summer blockbuster dating back to 1943 with Richard Wallace’s war film BombardierSpielberg’s Jaws is named the first “true” summer blockbuster. Released on June 20, 1975, Jaws became the first movie to earn $100 million at the box office. Jaws can also thank its unique marketing plan for a successful premiere. With 24-30 second TV commercials, the unforgettable shark poster, and a haunting score by John Williams, people had to see this film for themselves.

George Lucas followed in Spielberg’s footsteps with Star Wars. The sci-fi space odyssey surpassed Jaws at the box office with $775.8 million. These kinds of big-budget films were enticing to filmmakers, resulting in a surge of summer film drops throughout the 80s and ‘90s including Alien, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, Back to the Future, and more. 

In the 2000s, the summer blockbusters just kept coming with X-Men (2000), Pirates of the Caribbean (2003), The Dark Knight (2008), Inception (2010), Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Avengers: Infinity War (2017), and Hereditary (2018). 

What makes a movie a summer blockbuster?

The summer blockbuster is a big-budget movie that’s released in the height of the summer season. It usually has some kind of crazy special effects or an epic plot with iconic stars. Often, the movies are advertised several months to a year in advance to entice audiences to see the movie in theaters! 

Flashback to the early 1900s. Movie theaters were sweaty hot rooms, especially in the summer. Then in 1925, cinemas finally installed air conditioning. Still, the outdoors were calling during the summer months, so what would make them want to stay inside for a movie? Hollywood studios had to bring big exciting films to the silver screen worth seeing in theaters.

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Now, with modernized AC, comfortable seats, and drool-worthy snacks, movie theaters are an ideal place for a brief respite from the outdoors. On rainy days, hot days, or whenever you want a few hours in a cool dark room, the movies are the place to be.

Fans share their favorite summer blockbusters

Since the ‘80s, there’s been endless summer blockbuster genres: horror, family-friendly, action-adventure, sci-fi, and even romantic comedies. 

Movie fans are always sharing their favorites throughout the years on Twitter:

Michael argues the original summer blockbuster takes the cake. 

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Jimi remembers seeing Batman Begins like it was yesterday— a memorable summer blockbuster.

Two very different movies that could bring similar audiences. I mean, Grease has “summer loving” in one of the songs. . . 

Singing, dancing, summer fun, and Zac Efron? We can get behind this.

Ryan is team Jurassic Park and always team Spielberg.

Erin has an interesting take that big blockbusters have to be action-centered. Does she have a point? Or can romantic or horror films be just as valid? 

2022 summer blockbusters to watch

The list of potential blockbusters for summer 2022 is looking more promising by the minute.

Tom Cruise returns to the role of Maverick in Top Gun: Maverick, released at the end of May. With the help of fighter jets, drama, a sprinkle of nostalgia, and Miles Teller’s shirtless body roll dance moves, the film earned $400 million in box office revenue

The ending to the trilogy of Jurassic World proves to be another big blockbuster of the summer.

An unexpected film, Marcel the Shell, is being called the movie of the summer by some film critics.

Lightyear is a summer movie for audiences of all ages.

There are still so many more films coming out soon too! The Austin Butler and Tom Hanks-led biopic Elvis comes to theaters June 24, along with the scary movie The Black Phone

Marvel fans, you’re in luck because the next Thor film hits theaters on July 8th! 

We’ve also got Jordan Peele’s sci-fi thriller Nope in late July, and Brad Pitt’s Bullet Train set for an August release. 

Have you seen any of the big 2022 summer blockbusters yet? What’s your favorite summer film? Let us know on Twitter! 


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