August -- sandwiched between the big-budget buzz of the spring/early summer blockbusters and the ramp-up to fall's Oscar-hungry prestige pictures -- was the time when studios cleaned the dreck off the shelves and dumped it in a multiplex near you.
Among the gems that stank up theaters in Augusts past: Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid, Bratz: The Movie, Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2 and that poster child for bad movies everywhere,
Case in point: the comedy Let's Be Cops, starring
In recent years, an increasing number of films greeted with loud acclaim and large audiences have been released in this month of dog days. The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), Tropic Thunder (2008),
Its rousing success overshadowed another notable entry that opened the same day, the James Brown biopic Get on Up, which earned decent reviews and a more modest weekend take of
Last weekend, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot, while hardly a critical favorite, brought in
They're joined this week by: The Expendables 3, with its greatest-hits '80s/'90s cast (
It's all part of the shifting consumer landscape.
"The paradigm is changing and so is the entire 12-month schedule," says
"We're at a time when the core moviegoer doesn't really pay attention to the traditional movie season," says
"People have always wanted entertainment 12 months out of the year," says
It parallels what's going on with television, where the high, hard wall between the fall and spring debut of new shows and a summer stocked with reruns has collapsed faster than you can say The Strain.
"There's definitely something similar going on with the TV and movie industries," says Karger. "The old constructs of a movie season or a TV season are out the window now."
Too many movies
In the old days, it made sense that August -- like equally unloved September, and post-holiday January and February, the other dump months -- would be the time where lesser films would land. Back then, there weren't as many films in the distribution pipeline and it was natural to stack the popular or notable films either in late spring/early summer, when vacations mean lots of kids with free time, or the fall through December, in the run-up to the announcement of awards nominations. That's the way it has been at least since Jaws (
"It's not that a film can't open in August. It just doesn't have the ability to run five or six weeks so there's a scramble for June and July," says Landmark's Mundorff. "Once school begins, which used to be
But the supply pipeline may be starting to burst. According to The New York Times, there were nearly 900 movies released in 2013 that the publications ran reviews for, 75 more than in 2012. This now means studios are looking at times of the year where there may be less competition.
"It's possible that we've reached a point of saturation for these films, where it doesn't make sense to cram your hundred-million-dollar production into June or July where it can be easily cannibalized by other hundred-million-dollar films," wrote
"Last year, big productions like After Earth,
A few shock waves rippled through
"The reality now is there really isn't a bad week to open a movie,"
Landmark's Mundorff noted this week that business was running 17 per-cent over the same period last year. "I'm getting traction on multiple pictures at once," he says. "It's fun to see that not long before school begins."
(Overall though, as CNN reported last month, box-office has been down this summer nearly 20 per-cent compared to 2013.)
Fandango's Karger says the studios actually began to see the potential of
The film has grossed close to
Yet, in another way, even The Sixth Sense fits into the August stereotype. It didn't have a lot of big stars and was from an unknown director.
"The studios really seem to use August as the time to release maybe the slightly more risky summer movies," says Karger. "That way, [the studio] is not using one of the prime summer weekends. If you look at the movies that were summer successes in August like [the 2009 Meryl Streep film] Julie & Julia, these were all newer ideas, not sequels. It was not something with a number on the end of it."
While Guardians of the Galaxy, based on a Marvel comic, has been grabbing much of the glory for the new outlook on August, it's films aimed at adults weary of superheroes and alien invasions that often have found a home in this month over the past few years.
In addition to The Help, The Butler and Julie & Julia, you can add a few of
The dump months can also be an opportune time for smaller studios who can't, or don't want to, go head to head with The Avengers and Godzilla. "A lot of the adult fare is getting in there instead of the fall, and it's been working out," says Exhibitor Relations' Bock.
But with August being a player now, does that spell trouble for the indie hopefuls? If the major studios end up dominating more weeks of the year, that means fewer venues for the smaller films. Even the January-February window is seeing a slight upgrade. "There's always a
Last year, the culture site Vulture dubbed
But Landmark's Mundorff thinks big-studio and indie can co-exist any time of year. "I don't see one precluding the other, and Christmas time [when films up for awards are playing] proves it," he says.
He points to the low-budget cult indie hit Napoleon Dynamite, which had a limited opening in
"There was a time for independent films when it was said 'Stay away from the summer,' " he says. "But then Napoleon ran from the beginning of summer through September, and then got rejuvenated in September once the college kids came back and there was word-of-mouth."
As Guardians of the Galaxy helps audiences and studios to see August in a new light, just wait a few years, Bock says. "In 2016, you're going to see a lot of big August films."
Come some Oscar season soon, November and December just might have company.
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