By Molly Freeman
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
When films arrive in theaters, the release schedule is almost as predictable as the seasons. Romantic movies are released in February, blockbusters in the summer, horror movies in October, family and holiday movies in November, and Oscar fodder in December. However, as trends in movies change, so does the seemingly set-in-stone schedule.
In Hollywood, certain times of the year are known as “dump months”. In these months, studios release movies that are risky bets in terms of critical reception or financial gain. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule, breakout hits that no one expected to be as successful as they were.
For the US, dump months are traditionally January, February, August, and September. Slate compiled and averaged the Rotten Tomatoes scores of all the movies released in each month from 2000 to 2013, then calculated the average score per month over the 13 year period. The results showed February movies average a score of 45–the worst of any month–while January, August, and September received average scores of 48, 49, and 48 respectively.
The first two months of 2014 saw its fair share of flops such as The Legend of Hercules, Vampire Academy, and Pompeii. However, in February, The LEGO Movie defied the odds of the dump month and became one of the most well-received and financially successful films of the year.
Additionally, a similar pattern can be seen in August and September of this year. Many big releases like The Expendables 3, Into the Storm, and Before I Go to Sleep received poor receptions from both critics and casual moviegoers alike, but Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy became the breakout hit of the year’s second round of dump months.
In fact, Guardians of the Galaxy was so successful in premiering the first weekend in August that other movie studios with superhero properties moved similar superpowered adventures into the same slot for the next two years. Fox scheduled Josh Trank’s rebooted version of Fantastic Four to premiere in August 2015. The first weekend of August 2016, meanwhile, is taken by Warner Bros and DC’s Suicide Squad from director David Ayer.
To the credit of the movie studios that pump out superhero flicks–which includes Marvel Studios, Warner Bros, 20th Century Fox, and Sony–there are so many planned to debut in theaters through 2020 that it’s in the studios’ best interests to space out the release dates as much as possible. That way, they can prevent infringing upon each other’s box office gains, while continuing to keep the superhero trend popular among the masses.
To this end, there are various superpowered flicks planned for release in months outside of the typical blockbuster season; for instance, Fox’s Deadpool will premiere in February 2016 (perhaps because it’s more of a risky property, though that’s what many thought of Guardians of the Galaxy). Meanwhile, Warner Bros’ Black Panther is due to arrive in November 2017.
However, the summer blockbuster season–which seems to be expanding into April as well as August if the success of Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier is any indication–isn’t the only area of the movie schedule to see an exploded number of releases. A total of seven films will premiere this year in theaters on Christmas Day, a popular time for Oscar-contender releases, including Disney’s Into the Woods and Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken.
So, with all these release dates stretching into the dump months and overcrowding the holidays, does that mean we’ll see better movies across the board? Probably not. But the trend does mean that as ticket prices increase, moviegoers may be able to spread out the number of times they need to spend their hard-earned money on the theater experience–though it will likely still be concentrated around the usual schedule of summer and late fall.