Movie Release Calendar Strategy

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Well, it’s officially December, which means we’ve got some great movies coming out. Whether you’re looking forward to La La Land, Fences, or Jackie, it’s pretty obvious December consistently delivers some of the year’s best films. Most people are aware that winter months tend to offer big box offices and/or Oscar-worthy movies. But, did you know that every month of the year has unique factors that determine which movies get released at that time?

Studios schedule (or “slate”) their movies strategically to achieve the biggest economic returns possible. Of course, box office strategy has so many variables, it’s impossible to create a foolproof plan. But when deciding which movies release in a given month, studios have to ask questions like:

  • Is there something timely or seasonal that will make audiences specifically interested in our film this month?
  • Are there similar movies coming out at the same time that we don’t want to compete with at the box office?
  • Are we prioritizing our movies that have the best chances to make money by putting them in the best months for ticket sales?

Whether you’re a filmmaker trying to understand when is the best time to release your film or a moviegoer looking to figure out when your favorite movies will be coming out, it’s helpful to know what the calendar says about movie release strategy.

January

This is an interesting month that tends to offer a mixed bag of prestigious awards season leftovers like 2016’s, The Revenant, alongside the beginning of the “dump months” season, which includes broad, cliche Hollywood scraps like Dirty Grandpa.

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February

The month of love and… terrible movies. February comes bearing even worse movies than late January. Inevitably, you’ll see some sappy Valentine’s Day date movie flicks, some of which could be enjoyable. But primarily, February is a month for studios to slate some of their worst movies in order to avoid competing with the better films that usually come out in summer or early winter. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, including last year’s smash hit, Deadpool, which set the box office record for the month of February.

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March

Though Hollywood will continue to dump their less-than-stellar movies in March, we’ll usually get some interesting movies that have a chance to be big hits. It usually offers unique, well-crafted films with fresh concepts and unusual subject matter.

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April

Similar to March, April is a big month for indie film successes that are interesting and well-done but don’t have summer blockbuster potential. You can also expect a religious film or two to tie in with the Easter holiday.

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May

The month of “Coming Soon”. If May were personified, this month would be the hype man in a rap squad, prepping us for a summer filled with enjoyable cinema. Get ready to go crazy with blockbuster films, including sequels for days.

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June

School’s out, kids are bored, parents have vacation time and want some peace and quiet. This is when the summer blockbuster is in full effect, complete with explosions and nine figure production budgets. Expect to have a good laugh and be blown away by the amount of CGI used in such a short span of time.

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July

Fireworks, American pride, more explosions, and plenty of plotlines that revolve around saving the world as we know it. If this is your sort of thing, then July will have a huge selection of movies for you to choose from. Lots of world-ending, robot/alien butt-kicking montages that are sure to deafen your ears and widen your eyes.

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August

For August, expect some college classics. Most these films will relate to partying, crazy shenanigans, and blue humor that only a slightly immature, semi-adult would identify with. As high school and college students head back to class, it’s nice to have “coming-of-age” films to bond over between classes.

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September

Summer’s fully over, school has started, and you’re probably depressed about it all. September is essentially another dump month – movies shoved between the summer blockbusters and winter awards movies. Though, it may offer some promising independent films, be sure to choose your movies carefully in this month. Your options will be scarce.

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October

Spooky, scary, creepy films galore fill the month of October, all playing on the festiveness of Halloween. Expect lots of gore and jump scares, and if you’re lucky, a new iconic horror classic. Of course, if you can’t handle these types of films, there’s always next month!

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November

Can you pass the cranberries and a light-hearted comedy, please? After your heart finally stops racing from all the jump scares in October, November comes bearing an assortment of family dramas and family movies It also marks the beginning of the big Oscar-contenders.

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December

No, Gramps, I still don’t have a job.  December is the prime month for movie releases. Families are going to the movies to avoid talking politics overt the holidays, and Oscar-bait movies are releasing in order to be fresh on the minds of Academy voters. So, if you don’t get a good present under the tree, you’re at least guaranteed something good from your favorite Hollywood studio.

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When to Go to the Movies

All in all, there is a month of the year for everyone. If you like quality, obscure movies, March/April and Septembers are sure to include some diamonds in the rough. If you like blockbusters, the summer season is a great escape for you. And if you like Oscar bait films, just wait until the end of the year (as in, now). Of course, with every month there are great exceptions, but generally most of these months stick to their common themes. Of course, no matter which month it is, there’s something special about kicking back in a dark room with a big bucket of popcorn to enjoy a film. So support great cinema, and go enjoy a movie this week!