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How were blockbusters called before the word blockbuster came along? I mean major productions, historical epics and prestige films of the 1930s, e.g. Gone with the Wind (the term "prestige film" is also quite a latecomer). I believe Germans have the word Großfilm…

I guess I want to emphasize more the monumentalism and expense of the film rather than it’s actual box office success. Has anyone encountered some old expressive words for such films?

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Successful films were called hits long before they were ever blockbusters (c. 1942).

From Etymonline.com:

hit n
Meaning "successful play, song, person," etc., 1811, is from the verbal sense of "to hit the mark, succeed" (c. 1400).

You can see that the term hit pre-dates motion pictures entirely, and it was used in the sense of a "hit movie" for the entire period (and still is).

  • Hit is something I considered and thanks for pointing out its old origins. However, I guess I am looking for words that would connote the prestigiousness and high production values of these films, something that also Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini tried to imitate with their expensive major releases in the 1930s... – Howard Roark Sep 10 '17 at 0:47
  • So ... you'd like to invent a word that was never used? That's pretty vain, even for an Ayn Rand character. – Robusto Sep 10 '17 at 1:01
  • I’m looking for words that were used at the time; maybe something that has been forgotten – Howard Roark Sep 10 '17 at 1:37
  • The question is now very confused, but the handful of "most significant" films (Star Wars, Gone with the Wind, Sound of Music) are sometimes called, say, "iconic", "landmark", "industry defining" and so on. Note that (many) "blockbusters" are crappy, cheaply made films; blockbuster, hit etc seem to have no connection to what is being asked, really. – Fattie Jan 7 at 12:43
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I believe that the term sell out, as in "Gone with the Wind was a sell out," might be what you're looking for. There is also the acronym SRO, for standing room only.

protected by tchrist Sep 10 '17 at 0:14

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