The Madeleine Brand Show

The Madeleine Brand Show is a daily, two-hour program that looks at news and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by Madeleine Brand

Recapping the history of summer blockbusters

by The Madeleine Brand Show

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US film director Woody Allen arrives with his wife Soon-Yi at the premiere of his last film "To Rome With Love" at the Auditorium Parco della Musica in Rome. TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images

Summer is almost here, which means sun, fun and big movie releases. But why are so many movies released in the summer? In the very early days of film, the summer was a terrible time for movie theaters. Nobody wanted to sit in a hot, stuffy room for two hours. And then, along came something called refrigerated air, and that that changed everything.

It wasn't until the seventies, really, that the summer movie season we know now began to take shape, after releases from Steven Spielberg and George Lucas like "Jaws" and "Star Wars." And this idea of a summer blockbuster, make a big movie with special effects, build a marketing campaign around a lead star, open it in 2,000 theaters and watch the money roll in worked for about 40 years. But other than "The Avengers," most expected blockbusters have been a financial flop this summer.

One reason could be the new focus towards smaller budget indie films, like Woody Allen's "From Paris To Rome," with Alec Baldwin and Penelope Cruz, and "God Bless America," directed by Bobcat Goldthwait with Joel Murray and Tara Lynne Barr.


John Horn, LA Times writer who covers films and the entertainment business.

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