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Blockbuster was the name of the largest conventional bomb used in World War II by the Royal Air Force and the United States Air Force. Each blockbuster had the explosive force of twenty thousand tons of TNT. The name was given because a "Blockbuster" was capable of destroying an entire city block.

Blockbuster later came into use as a phrase by the motion picture industry denoting an expensively produced motion picture or play which was expected to be a box-office "smash". (This is an example of theater slang that often talks about success in violent metaphors, the idea being that all competing theaters on the block would be "busted".) Later it came to indicate any particularly financially sucessful film. In the mid-1970s, following the hugely successful release of Steven Spielberg's Jaws, much of Hollywood's focus was on creating films with similarly wide appeal, a development that spawned the so-called "blockbuster mentality" that continues to affect the motion picture industry. More loosely, any big budget Hollywood movie with famous stars are likely to be called a "blockbuster".

Blockbuster Video is biggest chain of video tape and DVD rental shops in North America. It has been equally successful in other countries. See main article for details.

Blockbusters was also the name of an NBC daytime quiz show, broadcast from 1980 to 1982.

The ITV children's quiz show of the same name, broadcast from 1983 - 1993, followed the same format. It was presented by Bob Holness.

See also: DVD rental, Hollywood movie