As production costs and ticket sale revenues skyrocketed during the 1990s, however, the $100 million plateau lost much of its significance. Titanic, for instance, cost $200 million to produce; ticket sales of $100 million would have resulted in a $100 million shortfall, a financial disaster even though it would have technically been a "blockbuster" by this standard. Also in the 1990s, it became common for 15 to 20 films to reach the $100 million plateau in a year, removing the elusive status of being signified a "blockbuster". It has thus become more common to use the $200 million level as a realistic plateau in determining widespread box office success.
The term is used more commonly by the general public and mass media to describe any big-budget or highly anticipated film.
The term was borrowed from the World War II-era bomb of the same name that flattened entire neighborhoods. The analogy is that when a blockbuster motion picture is released, competing film ticket sales are flattened by public indifference.