How the Blockbuster has shaped Media for the last Thirty years

In the summer of 1975, a little film by the name of Jaws hit the silver screen and became a sensation overnight. Steven Spielberg and other then-new directors like George Lucas and Ridley Scott were starting to make names for themselves with hits like Alien, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Star Wars. Lucas and  Spielberg in particular are perhaps the most responsible for creating “the modern era of super-blockbuster films” (McDonald/WaskoEds 19) that we know of today, those multi-million dollar films that everyone will be talking about months, let alone years after it comes out. By the early 1980s, there were numerous blockbuster films that would soon be engraved not only in American Film-making culture but the minds of moviegoers as well. While these blockbusters surely were great back in the day, Hollywood is stuck in it’s past constantly bringing back these old names for one more round.

“Merchandising! Where the real money from the movie is made!”

If someone came up to you on the streets and asked you to name some movie franchises, chances are most of them will be from the 1980s. Between 1975 and 1990, there were three Star Wars films, four Jaws films, three Indiana Jones films, four Superman films, five Rockys, five Star Treks, two Ghostbusters, two Die Hards, and three Back to The Futures. There were also films that were released and would become franchises of their own, such as Terminator, RoboCop, The Karate Kid, First Blood, Alien, and Predator. Despite some blemishes here and there (Looking at you, Superman IV and Jaws 3-D), all of these film franchises flourished in the 80s and onward, with VHS/Laserdiscs, toys, comics, games, lunchboxes, and all kinds of merchandise being produced.

Hollywood just found themselves a money making strategy like no other. While the Hollywood of the 50s would pump out film after film, each with a new cast of characters and plot, there were rarely ever sequels aside from the cheap monster movies of the day like Creature from the Black Lagoon. Companies like Universal and 20th Century Fox saw potential in the kind of big blockbuster hits that were coming out in the 70s and 80s and saw fit to milk theses cows for what they were worth. Although this strategy certainly led to high profits, Hollywood seems to be afraid of taking any risks in these blockbusters. Considering the millions of dollars it takes to produce a single one of these, producers will easily choose the safe bet of making a second Terminator over a film like Last Action Hero.

The Not-So-Complete Saga come December.

Even now we’re still locked in the realm of sequels and remakes and reboots in film. By the end of the year there will be seven live-action Star Wars films, four Indiana Jones films, six Supermans, twelve Star Treks, seven Rockys, five Terminators, four RoboCops, five Karate Kids, four First Bloods/Rambos, five Aliens, and three Predators (with two more films if you count the Alien Vs Predator franchise). Other blockbuster franchises have popped up in recent years like The Fast and the Furious and Mission Impossible, but it seems the old names seem to hold the most weigh for viewership, and in turn funds. This mentality of producing blockbuster after blockbuster exists in other forms of media as well, video games in particular. Video game producers pump in millions of dollars into re-releasing games in the same series yearly, with game series like Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, Madden NFL, and Battlefield selling millions of copies yearly. Perhaps it’s us, the consumer, that over the years have grown to fear the unknown and will default to seeing a film by a well-known producer or a sequel over spending our $12.50 on seeing a film by a no-name director starring a no-name cast.

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