Thursday, April 26, 2012

September movies and a discussion on Hollywood's release strategy

The last two years have seen some pretty solid movies get released in September, which wasn't always the case. September used to be the dumping ground for Hollywood films, but now it's become an extension for awards season. Part of this is due to the ever-growing prominence of the Toronto International Film Festival as well as festivals in Venice and Telluride. The Departed premiered in September 2006 and wound up winning best picture.

Keep in mind, this is still a very recent thing. 2009 only had one good film released in the month of September. But then 2010 had at least four (Machete, Never Let Me Go, The Town, Easy A).

And then 2011 had the best September ever when it came to movies: Contagion, Warrior, Drive, Moneyball, 50/50, Take Shelter.

So what does 2012 have in store? At least two very solid, promising movies Killing Them Softly and Looper. Then there's "Trouble with the Curve" which features Clint Eastwood's first acting performance since Gran Torino.

Sure, three movies isn't nearly enough to consider September a great month for movies but I hope 2011 and the success of those three movies encourages more studios to release interesting films in the month of September. As of right now, January and February are still weak months for film. April has gotten weaker and weaker as the years go by. August had a brief run of interesting summer movies for the majority of the 2000s, but it's now starting to become a weak month as well. What does that leave us with?

March, for some reason, always has at least one big blockbuster film that serves as a precursor to summer movie season. Then May officially begins that season. This year, The Avengers gets the coveted first Friday of May slot. Then the rest of the month, you have Dark Shadows, The Dictator, and Men In Black III. June continues that string of Hollywood blockbusters, but lately, it seems that June has become a less interesting month for summer movies as opposed to July. Mid-July has lately become "Christopher Nolan time." As since 2008, he has had three huge films come out around that time (the third one being the upcoming Dark Knight Rises).

October officially starts the awards season. At this point, all the main festivals have come and gone (except for the New York Film Festival). Generally speaking, October has been a strong month for drama.

November and December are both big months for movies and they're almost always reliable months when it comes to finding high quality films. They have both blockbuster films for the holiday season as well as more serious fare poised to become Oscar favorites. Lately though, December has become a huge cluster for movies trying to get awards attention. In my opinion, this practice has to stop as not only do some good films get lost in the shuffle, but they also lose box office luster. Would The Adventures of Tintin have done better if it wasn't released too close to another Spielberg film? Could We Bought a Zoo have made more money if it was released in August or October? What about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? A dark film featuring rape scenes released on Christmas? As much as Hollywood wants to have counter-programming on Christmas, it just seems like people aren't going for that.

We will see whether or not Quentin Tarantino's film "Django Unchained" winds up being screwed over in the box office due to it being released on Christmas. Don't get me wrong, Dragon Tattoo did pretty well, probably as good as a movie with such dark subject matter could do and it at least came from a popular, best-selling novel. Django Unchained, however, is a completely original movie from QT dealing with slavery. Could it have benefited more from an October or November release? Inglourious Basterds came out in August and did amazingly well. Why not give it an August or September release?

The practice of Hollywood studios releasing all their best movies in December has to stop. It's ok if it's more controlled like it was in 2010 where movies like Black Swan and True Grit did great after being released in December. But 2011 just had way too many new releases and I honestly think it screwed some films over.

Besides, if Hollywood is going after the Oscar by releasing their movie in December, it's not working for them. The last December movie to win best picture was 2004's Million Dollar Baby. Crash, The Departed, No Country For Old Men, Slumdog, Hurt Locker, King's Speech, The Artist... NONE of those movies had a December release. They were all released earlier and then gained buzz overtime. December movies simply do not have the time to gain enough buzz and press to win as many Oscars as it could have.

It's stupid though, isn't it? That a release date is so important in determining a movie's box office and/or awards success? Unfortunately, that is absolutely the case.

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