February could be a lot worse, but I’m wondering if I’ll bother to open my wallet for a 2011 release (thanks to the godsend that is free screenings, I have yet to pay for a movie that opens this year) any time this month. Do studios really just want everyone to go see “The King’s Speech” and “True Grit” again, enough so that they’ll dump “The Roommate” and “Sanctum” on us? There are few rays of mainstream hope, mainly emanating from “I Am Number Four.”
Elisabeth Rappe of Film.com shares in my lamenting:
“February is the dumping ground for bad films. If a film is originally set for a particular date — say, October 5, 2011 — and is suddenly yanked and shoved into February, it is the death knell. You know it’s not going to be worth your time or money to see, and the reason we know this is because we’ve been lured to many a lousy winter film in the past. Go back just 10 years, and you’ll see that February has boasted such great films as ‘Reindeer Games,’ ‘Snow Day,’ ‘Down to Earth,’ ‘Valentine,’ ‘Hannibal,’ ‘Rollerball,’ ‘Daredevil,’ ‘How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,’ ‘Against the Ropes’ … the list just goes on and on into sheer dollar bin misery. The box-office returns tell a sad state of desperation. ‘Snow Day’ opened at No. 3 on February 11, 2000, and it wasn’t because it was a good film, it’s because there was nothing else to see.
The entire month is a pretty bleak slate, but the real DOA date has been distilled to the fine point of the first weekend of February. These aren’t just bad films, they’re the worst of any given year. Search them at random. February 2, 2005: ‘Unleashed.’ February 3, 2006: ‘When a Stranger Calls.’ February 1, 2008: ‘Over Her Dead Body,’ ‘Strange Wilderness,’ and ‘The Eye’. Wretched. Just wretched.
Why is poor February, who never did anything to anyone, the land of the lousy film? Why is its first weekend a cinematic graveyard? Hollywood might tell me that it’s traditionally a time of poor returns, that polling shows audiences like to see ‘Captain America’ in summertime, and that it’s too far out to risk releasing an award contender. (Not always so. ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ was released on February 14, 1991, and went on to win Best Picture. ‘Shakespeare in Love’ was a January 1999 release. It can happen.)
Considering that studios are becoming more and more desperate to milk the box-office dollar, and there are only so many weeks to the summer season, why not start using February to unload a few of your flashiest popcorn flicks? Instead of jockeying for a good July date, why not release a Harry Potter or a Transformers in February? Would audiences truly shy away from seeing a Transformers movie simply because it was released in winter? A good and bankable film doesn’t need a historic summer weekend. It just needs a screen. Considering more and more films are being made simply on name recognition — hence the lust for remakes or big comic book properties — it stands to reason that audiences would flock to Superman in February.”
I think it’s about time that studios ditched the whole “open everything big in summer” mentality. Sleeper hits like “Taken” and “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” have shown that audiences are willing to flock to movies with good buzz in the winter, and prestige pics like “Shutter Island” can open well and have staying power with very few quality alternatives.
Quite frankly, I’m ready for 2011 to start making a name for itself. I’m running out of 2010 movies to see again while I wait.