We introduce a simple model to study movie competition in recommender systems. Movies of heterogeneous quality compete against each other through viewers’ reviews and generate interesting dynamics at the box office. By assuming mean-field interactions between the competing movies, we show that the runaway effect of popularity spreading is triggered by defeating the average review score, leading to box-office hits: Popularity rises and peaks before fade-out. The average review score thus characterizes the critical movie quality necessary for transition from box-office bombs to blockbusters. The major factors affecting the critical review score are examined. By iterating the mean-field dynamical equations, we obtain qualitative agreements with simulations and real systems in the dynamical box-office forms, revealing the significant role of competition in understanding box-office dynamics. Copyright © 2011 American Physical Society.