Sunday Discussion: Why Does January Suck for Movies?
by Alex Billington
January 6, 2008
This question should probably have been posed as "why does January through April suck for moves" instead. There are always exceptions, usually anything in the month of March, or a few in April, like Grindhouse or Hot Fuzz, but for the most part, January and February are terrible months! They're known as the "dumping grounds" where studios drop films they know won't do well and don't have a big audience. It's always a question I've wondered, because I've realized people will always go see movies at any time. The movie-going seasons pick up around Christmas and over the summer, but throughout the rest of the year, if there's a good movie, people will always see it no matter the time of year.
The reason why this is a Sunday Discussion is because I often have to argue with people about the fact that January is a dumping grounds with terrible movies, because they just don't believe it. There is always a movie someone will end up loving in January (maybe it will be Cloverfield for me, but I'll get to that later). But for the most part, the line-up sucks. Just look at this years selections: One Missed Call, First Sunday, Mad Money, How She Move, Meet the Spartans, and Untraceable (which is the photo above) - that's it, for the entire month of January. Is there anyone who even wants to see a single one of these?
It could partially be due to the fact that there's so much else going on, that it's not really worth it to release anything big, or potentially big. Combined with the fact that everything big and possibly good was released during the always-reliable Christmas season; now it starts to maybe make sense. Beyond that you've got CES the second week, Sundance the last two weeks, and school starting back up again for students.
Last year, 300 really shook things up in Hollywood. I think for the most part studios assumed nothing would ever be that big in March and they were probably worried about its performance. Every industry analyst under-estimated its opening weekend box office, and thus when it was such an incredible success, it really changed the industry. Now that weekend, the second in March, is looked upon as a prime spot, like the "4th of July in March." However, that spot won't be as successful this year, just because there is no awesome film that audiences will love being released that weekend in March. Not at least until 2009 when Zack Snyder is back with Watchmen.
The other movie that I have a feeling could blow up into something big is Cloverfield. Universal tried a similar thing with Smokin' Aces last year. There was an excessive amount of buzz based on the trailers and it just kept building. Then they moved it to a late-January release and it did "okay," but not extraordinary at the box office. And in the end I hated it! I'm hoping Cloverfield is the exact opposite, and I have a good feeling it will be. If it is as successful as all of the buzz is promising, then it will yet again shake up the industry. A mid-January opening will never be looked upon the same again, nor will it ever be as successful again.
Things will change forever if Cloverfield does well, but besides that, January is a terrible month for movies. And why is that? It doesn't need to be, it could be filled with some fairly good films. Why does it suck for movies? At what point did the studios in Hollywood decide it was the perfect month to use as dumping grounds? And what do you think, could it ever get better or is destined to always stay this bad?