Now it’s time for the third series of free English classes! This is the first lesson in our English in Blockbuster Movies series. Prepare to learn more about blockbuster movies, including the history, terminology, and genres that people love to watch all around the world!
- Learn how to speak about blockbuster movies
- Learn new movie-related vocabulary
- Learn how to identify and use parallelism
- Discover interesting facts about blockbuster movies in America
Difficulty Level: Intermediate
Time: Approximately 15 minutes
People have been watching movies for over a century. However, the types of movies we like to watch have changed a lot over the years. In the early days of cinema, people watched silent movies with subtitles that explained the story. Today, people watch blockbuster movies with plenty of sound, action, romance, and thrills!
The Early Days of Cinema
So, how did movies change so much? The answer is not simple. During the course of the 20th Century, technology advanced dramatically, allowing filmmakers to create new and interesting stories with better movie sets, more complex narratives, and more impressive sights and sounds!
In addition to the technological changes, the film industry in the United States also developed during great social and economic changes. Following the stock market crash of 1929, the world fell into a Great Depression that lasted for over a decade. In 1939, Germany invaded Poland, starting World War II. Despite these worldwide hardships, the 1930s and 1940s were known as the “Golden Age of Cinema.” During this time, Hollywood, California became the center of the American film industry, American films adopted a distinctive style, and people went to see movies in droves.
The Introduction of “Blockbusters”
By the 1960s and 1970s, a new wave of movie directors had arrived in Hollywood. Two of these directors, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, would later be credited with the invention of the “summer blockbuster.” The summer blockbuster uses a big budget, large marketing campaign, and impressive visual effects to attract moviegoers. The first blockbuster was Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, the 1975 thriller about a killer shark. It held the honor of being the highest-grossing film of all time, but that status would only last for two years.
In 1977, George Lucas directed Star Wars, one of the most ambitious and successful sci-fi movies of all time and the new highest-grossing film at the time. In the years since Jaws and Star Wars, summer blockbusters have continued to be some of the most popular movies in existence. Since the early 2000s, superhero and fantasy blockbusters like Avatar, Black Panther, and Iron Man have been particularly popular, making billions of dollars and entertaining audiences all around the world!
Let’s take a closer look at some of the words in bold from the passage:
- Cinema – (noun) – A general term for movie production; another term for ‘movie theater.’
American cinema brings joy to billions of people every year.
- Silent movie – (noun) – A movie without sound.
The silent movie era in America ended in 1929.
- Subtitles – (noun) – Words displayed at the bottom of a movie or television program to explain the story and translate the dialogue.
Subtitles help people with hearing problems enjoy movies.
- Blockbuster – (noun) – A very successful movie with a big budget.
Hollywood studios put out at least one big blockbuster every summer.
- Dramatically – (adverb) – Significantly; done in a way that relates to drama.
Steven Speilberg dramatically changed the film industry forever.
- Movie set – (noun) – The location where a movie is filmed, including the props and scenery.
Actors usually wait in their dressing room before they go to the movie set.
- Narrative – (noun) – Story.
George Lucas used an existing narrative style to create a whole new cinematic world.
- Hardship – (noun) – Suffering; a difficult situation.
People like to escape the hardships of their daily lives at the movie theater.
- In droves – (idiom) – In large numbers.
People came out in droves to see Avatar.
- Marketing campaign – (noun) – A plan to advertise and increase awareness of a company or product.
The marketing campaign for Jaws mostly involved commercials and merchandise.
- Visual effects – (noun) – Images created in a movie or video through the use of computer technology.
The majority of scenes in Avatar were made with computer-generated visual effects.
- Highest-grossing – (adjective) – Earning more money than any other movie.
Nowadays, Avatar is the highest-grossing movie of all time.
- Sci-fi – (noun) – Short for ‘science fiction;’ a genre of storytelling involving imagined science or technology.
Star Wars is one of the best sci-fi movies of the 20th Century.
Take a look at the following sentence from the passage:
During this time, Hollywood, California became the center of the American film industry, American films were recognized by their distinct style, and people went to see movies in droves.
The sentence above is an example of parallelism (or parallel structure). Parallelism makes English sentences easier to read by using similar grammatical structures. You can create a parallel structure by using the same tense for every verb in a list. In the example sentence from the passage, all of the verbs are in the simple past tense:
During this time, Hollywood, California became the center of the American film industry, American films adopted a distinctive style, and people went to see movies in droves.
Now let’s look at the same sentence without the parallel structure:
During this time, Hollywood, California became the center of the American film industry, American films adopted a distinctive style, and people go to see movies in droves.
It sounds kind of strange, doesn’t it? That’s because it’s grammatically incorrect and doesn’t use a parallel structure. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to make sure that you’re using the same verb form in a list. However, this isn’t the only way to create a parallel structure. In addition to the verb tense, parallelism can also be determined by the part of speech, noun quantities, and subject matter.
If you’d like to learn about using parallelism in English, check out our parallelism guide with explanations and examples!
Now, let’s look at a few questions to review the passage, vocabulary, and grammar:
1. Which of the following statements most accurately captures the central idea of the passage?
A. American movies underwent major changes throughout the middle of the 20th Century, culminating in the invention of the summer blockbuster in 1975.
B. Summer blockbusters are characterized by big budgets and plenty of action.
C. American blockbusters like Avatar and Iron Man are some of the most popular movies in the world.
D. Steven Spielberg invented the blockbuster with Jaws, but George Lucas perfected it with Star Wars.
2. When did Hollywood get a new wave of directors?
3. Which of the following is an example of a hardship?
A. Winning the lottery
B. Seeing your favorite movie
C. Watching a TV show
D. Losing your job
4. What can subtitles do?
A. Make movies easier to watch
B. Describe actions in a movie
C. List the actors in a movie
D. Improve the visual effects
5. Which of the following sentences does NOT have a parallel structure?
A. I went to the movie theater and watched a horror movie.
B. The director wrote, directed, and produced his film.
C. I like to watch thrillers and enjoying action movies.
D. Do you want to go to the park, read a book, or watch a movie?
6. Fill in the blank: “The actor walked around the movie set, drank a cup of coffee, and ______ for the director to arrive.”
D. Have waited