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Sunday Discussion: Why Does January Suck for Movies?

by
January 6, 2008

Untraceable

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?

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  • Spider
    Let's not forget "Rambo" If "Rocky Balboa" proved that a movie written, produced, directed, and starring Sylvester Stallone could be a big hit (70.2 million US and 155 million worldwide) and shutting up those arrogant naysayers, "Rambo" is poised to surprise big!! Personally, I will see "Rambo" before "Cloverfield"! Those are the only 2 flicks I'm interested in seeing in January!
  • jason_md2020
    No one sees movies during January 'cause they're all still broke from the holiday season. So they dump the films that they don't expect to be block busters during that time. That's my $0.02.
  • You're just in the wrong country Alex! In the UK we're only just about to get a few of the big releases that have already arrived (and in some cases gone again) in the US :)
  • JOE H
    All the studios know these are shit months, so when their crap film panhandles enough cash together to make #1 at the box office, they can slap that on an advertisement and say "look, people thought it was good because they went and saw, so you can too!" and they hope they make their investment back from there.
  • I have a bad feeling about 'Cloverfield' but Jan. always has a few gems (ex. Freedom Writers, one of my fav. of the year). The Orphange and Bucket List open (though they might not count), and Untraceable looks decent and Rambo will probably make a few bucks and Mad Money is a wild card. Feb. Blueberry nights opens but Jumper, Definetly, Maybe, and it's a longshot but Over Her Dead Body might be enjoyable. Not to mention Be Kind, Rewind, Vantage Point and Boeyln Girl and Semi-Pro all open. March the only good one is 21 but there is also wildcards, Doomsday, The Bank Job, Run, Fat Boy, Run and shameless cash vehicle that may have a laugh or two, Horton Hears a Who. However the biggest hit is Feb.: HANNAH MONTANA/MILEY CYRUS: BEST OF BOTH WORLDS CONCERT TOUR IN DISNEY 3D!!!!!!!! It's f**kin' insane, already in a few of my local theaters MULTIPLE showtimes are sold-out and they're playing in 185-400+ screen theaters!
  • Liz
    I think the other thing to consider about the dry period from January to April (or at least January and February) is that we're gearing up for awards season. So many films that are touted as contenders for the Oscars get limited releases in December only to go on to have wider and wider releases throughout January and February as buzz builds and nominations start rolling in. You listed a slew of films being released in January that no one will probably see, but there's still a slate of "old" films that the vast majority of people haven't had the opportunity to see yet, e.g. There Will Be Blood, although I concede that this probably won't be a huge box office draw either. There's also the trend of re-releasing films that have already left theatres when they get nominated for something. The Departed came out in October 2006, way too early to still be playing by the time all the Oscar-buzz films started coming out, but it was re-released in theatres in January/February 2007 to capitalize on the awards buzz it was receiving. Once the Oscars come and go, though, is when I find it hard to find stuff to see. I no longer have a backlog of stuff in theatres that I want to see and anything new coming out often doesn't look fantastic. March and April are a rough couple of months.
  • CEP
    Actually, I think this is as much the critics' fault, and the awards season's fault, as anything else. The awards season is MUCH too soon after the end of the year for real critical reflection (and the less said about the stupidity of "eligibility depends on opening in one theater each in NY and LA" the better). In turn, that means that anything that the studios view as a serious "best picture" candidate will be released between mid-June and mid-December. If I had my druthers, I'd change the awards system so that nominations didn't even open until 15 February, and the awards were all handed out during the first half of May... priming the public for the post-Memorial-Day blockbusters. Here's an example of what I mean: Name the winner of the Best Picture award for 1979 (awarded 1980). Now name the other four nominees. Which, if any, of those films have y'all seen in the last two years? Hell, which, if any, of those films have y'all even seen on the shelf at the local video place in the last two years? And what does the critical perspective now say about that winning Best Picture? The less said about the "shark jumping" (pun intended) for Best Actor, the better. It's no better in publishing; the National Book Awards, for example, are made before the end of the year, because critics get galley copies a couple of months ahead of release...
  • Damon Peoples
    What things will change forever if Cloverfield does well mid-January? Also, we shouldn''t forget "There Will Be Blood" which has unfortunately only now caught on with the rest of the population outside of us movie geeks who ate that up in late December.
  • I for one am actually looking forward to seeing Untraceable. I like Colin Hanks and am anxious to see him in a thriller like this. I also still think that Diane Lane is very attractive. I think that Cloverfield and Rambo are going to be nice additions to the month of January! I think you may just be feeling a little bit of let down after there are so many films released for the holidays.

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