Ahhh, January. The first month of the year, the official end of the holidays when winter settles in and movie theaters are filled with some of the most forgettable — and regrettable — movies. Most of this season’s exciting offerings, the Oscar bait, have already been released and might be going nationwide this month (like Selma, Inherent Vice, and American Sniper). But what’s on the slate for January 2015? The Woman in Black 2, Mortdecai, Blackhat … still with me? Hardly awards show contenders. So what’s the deal with January and other “dump months”?
As Dr. Evil put it so eloquently last month, “It’s easy to kill a movie. Just move it to January.” Here is a recent example: In late 2013, when Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit was bumped from Christmas Day — a money release day, so money — to the following January 17th, everyone groaned. The trades outlined a few reasons why this was done, such as Paramount wanting to put the spotlight on Martin Scorcese’s Wolf of Wall Street rather than Jack Ryan. But by moving the latter movie to mid-January so it can compete with Ride Along instead of Wolf of Wall Street, it looks like Paramount was giving its Tom Clancy revival a chance to beat up some low-hanging fruit rather than face a devastating knockout at the box office.
Sure enough, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit flopped. While it was hardly a cinematic disaster on the level of Battleship, not even Chris Pine could get people interested in an ultimately unnecessary reboot. (Pine did get a Christmas day release with Into the Woods, which is more than making up for his setback.)
Back to School
Maybe if Harrison Ford had been playing Jack Ryan, a bigger crowd would have showed up. Another social theory behind January being such a desolate movie month is that because Hollywood’s favorite audience — young people — is going back to school and have a lot less free time, the older audience is heading into theaters now that all those whippersnappers are out of their hair. The other common time of year when the target audience is going back to school is late August and September, another “dump” period for movies — post-summer blockbuster, post-tentpole, post-vacations and late nights for many people.
Everyone Is Broke
Like a forgotten lump of coal in a Christmas stocking about to be put away for another year, a nasty bummer of a credit card bill awaits many people after the holidays have wrapped up and become another memory for the scrapbook. It might seem like a no-brainer to head to the movies once the festivities have died down and there are no more parties to attend on the weekends, but spending even more money is hard to stomach when that bill comes and everyone’s accounts have waned. If the decision came down to seeing a mediocre movie or food on the table… People just aren’t going to choose Mortdecai over not starving.