While doom and gloom has been forecast for the movie industry for years, cinemas are filled with more and more new releases every month, and the release calendar is more packed than ever before. But with differing schedules for different countries, and industry trends that lean heavily on certain ‘seasons’, that’s not a consistent stream throughout the calendar year, which begs the question: what is the best month to go to the movies?
This is pretty much as bad as the year in movies gets. September is a dull, empty and generally depressing no man’s land between the end of blockbuster summer season and the beginning of awards season. While it may occasionally serve up some surprises, it’s a month that’s weaker at the box office than pretty much all others, and more often than not provides next to no big anticipation or excitement at the movies.
While the big studios hit hard early in the summer with the most-anticipated blockbusters of the year, no releases are left by the time September comes around. As a result, horror movies take centre stage, aiming to capitalise on moviegoing demand despite little supply, all the while playing into the beginning of Halloween fever.
While there are some good horror movies in September, such as 2017’s It, most are far from top-quality, and knowing that, they avoid summer releases to launch with less competition in a weaker month, but it’s not something that works to the audience’s advantage at all.
There may be the odd indie drama or offbeat thriller that impresses, but September normally breeds the worst comedies, and is often the dumping ground for studio dramas/biopics that aren’t confident enough to wait another month and run a full Oscar campaign. In short, while it’s not always wholly terrible, there’s no month at the movies more underwhelming than September.
March is light years better than September, with an actual showing from the big studios, but that doesn’t mean it’s a spectacular month either, suffering from its position in the other no man’s land between awards season and summer movie season.
Recent years have been kind to March, with Disney regularly releasing a big live-action remake of a classic (Dumbo, Beauty And The Beast, Cinderella), Jordan Peele’s popular horror-thrillers Get Out and Us, and even the arrival of Marvel with the release of Captain Marvel in 2019.
However, after the drama and controversy of the Academy Awards at the end of February every year, and anticipation for the big releases of early summer reaching its highest, March feels like a really underwhelming month, filled with middling dramas and often mediocre blockbusters, offering little of the excitement and wonder that greets cinemagoers in other months of the year.
That of course doesn’t mean that it’s an entirely awful month, and one big benefit for those in English-speaking countries is the arrival of a number of foreign hits from the previous year. While the Oscars have been and gone, the one silver lining that March always offers up is the opportunity to watch some of the best films from abroad that you missed last year.
While August always masquerades as having the fun and excitement of the best of the summer movie season, it’s actually a pretty depressing month that, despite having a couple of big releases, is more of a dumping ground for the summer’s weakest and weirdest movies.
As a result, while the month may start off in strong fashion with a Marvel movie or a big action flick, year-on-year it tails off into a fairly dismal array of random and underwhelming blockbusters. As it’s far too early to be releasing any Oscar dramas, there’s little to see beyond the big studio stuff, as well as some of the more unorthodox blockbusters.
For some reason or other, August has become the honorary slot for big shark movie releases in recent years (The Shallows, The Meg), while it has also regularly served as home recently to the season’s weakest comedy movies (The Happytime Murders, Sausage Party etc).
With that said, every few years August does serve up a real gem, whether it be a big blockbuster like Guardians Of The Galaxy or Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, or even something a little more serious, like Straight Outta Compton. So, while August is never a month to be particularly excited about, there should always be something there to peak your interest.
The staple release slot for Marvel’s biggest movie of the year, April – right at the beginning of spring – marks the start of the summer movie season, with a couple of blockbusters through the month culminating in that big MCU release every year.
With the release calendar getting more and more packed by the year, studios are competing to get their films in early before blockbuster fatigue sets in by mid-summer, a phenomenon that has helped April to become one of the year’s most anticipated months, rather than the March-like wasteland it used to be.
Having said that, April still isn’t on the level of peak summer blockbuster fever, and with the exception of the Marvel release, some of the big studio blockbusters, animated movies and comedies are often far from the quality of the year’s best, leaving it as still somewhat of a stop-gap between the end of the awards season and the big excitement of the summer.
The one thing that April leads the year in is the multitude of foreign movies that get releases in English-speaking countries. March starts the trend off, but April is full of international award winners and brilliant indie hits that didn’t get a release in the past year, with recent examples like Wild Tales, Our Little Sister and Eighth Grade outside North America proving that there’s always something worth seeing in April.
A strange middleground between the jam-packed month of May and the beginning of the summer holidays, June always has its fair share of anticipated blockbusters and more, but always feels far emptier than the best months of the summer season.
A recent stronghold for new Pixar releases (Inside Out, Finding Dory, Incredibles 2, Toy Story 4), June capitalises on the start of summer fun, giving young kids lots of movies to start the holidays with. However, for a number of reasons, the month is still devoid of the biggest titles of the year, ranging from a relative lack of national holidays around the world to the start of good weather in major markets in the Northern Hemisphere.
In the knowledge that June isn’t the draw for box office figures that many other months are, studios will either delay their biggest releases until July/August – Marvel generally take that tactic – or cram their release in as early as possible in the summer season at some point in May.
As for non-blockbuster releases, June is probably the weakest month of the whole year, with the height of summer season and the start of school holidays drawing adults away from going out to the cinema on their own. Meanwhile, being as far away from Oscar season as possible, releasing an awards contender in June would be detrimental to a film’s chances of Oscar glory the following February, meaning studios tend to hold out for a few more months.
The official beginning of awards season after the end of a dire September, October always fills cinemagoers with anticipation for something a little different to the blockbuster fare of the last few months, even if it doesn’t always live up to the expectations.
Although it’s still five months away from the actual Oscars ceremony, we always see studios putting out their first strong awards contenders (A Star Is Born, First Man, Bohemian Rhapsody last year), which finally injects some top filmmaking quality into multiplexes around the world after a few months on the backburner. However, being so far from the big ceremony, October releases often see their Oscar campaigns peak too early, meaning studios are still reluctant to release the best of the best until a couple of months later.
To fill the gap between those first Oscar contenders, we always see a few offbeat blockbusters that, while not necessarily worse, would definitely not stand up against the titans of peak summer movie season. Last year we had Venom, and this year we have Joker, so there are always some interesting examples of blockbuster movies to see in October.
It’s not the greatest month, and rarely features the year’s best releases, but October always has something of interest to offer, and is a major improvement on the horrifying wilderness of September.
Historically derided as the very worst that the movie year has to offer, there is certainly a case to made against January, often filled with lacklustre sci-fi movies and dull horrors that have no home elsewhere in the film calendar.
However, while it’s never the month with the best initial releases, January is the month that features the first wide releases of the biggest Oscar contenders of the season. With December 25th the last day of release to qualify for the Oscars, studios will often put their films on limited release on Christmas Day, and then go wide for everyone to see through January, giving their campaigns the opportunity to gain momentum as close to the ceremony as possible.
So, if you look at it on the official calendar, January may only seem to have the likes of Glass, The Bye Bye Man or The 5th Wave, but in real terms, it’s the month where we normal, non-industry viewers get to see the movies most likely to be winning Oscars come the end of February, with a number of the most recent Best Picture winners seeing their release in January.
There isn’t much to see in terms of independent or international releases, and that can leave the month feeling a little one-note being so full of Hollywood stuff, but it still gets the year off to a great start with the cinematic quality on display.
Having undergone a striking revolution in the last few years, February has changed from an empty void of nothing more than horror movies to a hotbed of the year’s biggest blockbusters.
While it’s still littered with dull horrors and poor sci-fi movies (Happy Death Day, Alita: Battle Angel), a lot revolves around Valentine’s Day weekend, where we see massive blockbusters taking in billions at the international box office, with recent examples like Deadpool and Black Panther proving the potential of February as a money-making machine.
As a result, there have been more and more high-quality releases in February over the years, with the likes of The Lego Movie and more impressing across the world, as moviegoers look for the first opportunity to get a glimpse of a summer-esque blockbuster in months.
Meanwhile, it also features releases for the last stragglers of the Oscars campaign, and while the big winners at the ceremony rarely get released so close to the actual ceremony, which takes place at the end of the month, there are a number of dramas and top-quality films to balance out the growing presence of studio blockbusters, making February a month where everyone can find something great to watch.
The historical peak of summer movie season in earnest, July is filled to the brim with blockbusters, family movies and more to fill out mutliplexes across the world, and while not the best display of filmmaking quality all year, it’s certainly the month with the best spirit in pure entertainment.
A recent homestay of a more light-hearted Marvel release (Spider-Man Homecoming, Ant-Man And The Wasp), the Mission: Impossible franchise, a number of animated releases and a bold independent movie or two, there is always something new to watch in July, intending to be the pinnacle of the year’s box office activity.
And what’s more, we’ve had a number of real Oscar contenders taking their first step into the fray in July, with big hitters Boyhood and Dunkirk taking big July releases and, while not taking Oscar gold over half a year later, do bring a certain gravitas and quality to the month that’s often lacking in a number of those blockbusters.
So, while it’s not necessarily the best month of the year in terms of sheer filmmaking quality, no month encapsulates the bright-eyed, fun-loving aspect of the movie calendar quite like July.
Arguably the real beginning of the best of awards season, November brings with it a number of the year’s best movies, the early bubbles of awards anticipation with the first ceremonies of the season, as well as a few big studio blockbusters to satisfy everyone at the same time.
With the nominations for the Golden Globes coming at the beginning of the following month, and a number of early awards ceremonies like the Hollywood Film Awards coming in November itself, studios aim to get their strongest contenders out just in time, aiming to build early momentum as the season pushes ahead towards the Oscars.
So, recent years have seen the likes of Roma, Arrival, Call Me By Your Name and a whole lot more released in November, and with that the first sense of real anticipation at the excitement and chaos of awards season ahead. Couple that with a release roster that’s full of quality, there are few months that draw people to cinemas with such power and intrigue like November.
And of course, for those that aren’t keen on the Oscar contenders, Disney and the other big studios always have a family release or two around to coincide with Thanksgiving in North America, with Coco and Ralph Breaks The Internet delighting audiences in recent years, and the likely titan Frozen II set for release in November 2019.
Fresh, energetic and exciting, there are few months that inspire fun and anticipation quite like May, the month that’s arguably become the very peak of summer blockbuster fever, filled from weekend to weekend with top-quality action, sci-fi, comedy and more year on year.
Whether it’s the remains of the immense Marvel release at the end of April, a new monster movie, one of the many brilliant Hollywood comedies or the latest action hit of the year, there’s no month that’s quite as jam-packed with great, entertaining movies as May, and this year alone we’ve had the likes of John Wick: Chapter 3, Godzilla: King Of The Monsters, Detective Pikachu, Booksmart and many more crowding out the multiplexes.
With all that brilliantly entertaining summer movie fare filling the world’s silver screens, there’s always something to enjoy in May, with studios aiming to capitalise on the beginning of summer fever and get their movie seen before any other. However, because that trend is still fairly new, May also holds onto its classic role as a stop-gap between Hollywood awards season and the big blockbuster part of the year.
As a result, alongside all of those great box office smashes, the month is also filled with independent releases, studio dramas, foreign hits and more, with this year’s roster featuring the brilliant Wild Rose, High Life and Rocketman among many others.
No other month has the energy and heaving release schedule of May, where there is something to be seen from every genre in every corner of the world, all coinciding with the sense of excitement that comes with the arrival of summer.
While the weather outside may be frightful, December has recently become the unquestionable peak of the movie year, combining its traditional role as the height of awards season with a new window for the year’s biggest box office hits.
As I mentioned earlier, studios release some of their biggest Oscar contenders on Christmas Day, but with awards season already in full swing, the whole month is full of the best dramas of the year, along with some of the best-reviewed independent films from festivals earlier in the year, helping December to become the month with arguably the highest quality filmmaking on display all the way through.
In the past, that was what December was designed for, along with a couple of family movies to capitalise on the Christmas festivities, but it’s very recently become a whole new animal, creating an entirely new peak season for blockbuster box office glory.
In slightly similar fashion to what has happened in February, but on a much bigger scale, December is now home to a number of billion-dollar franchises, with Avatar and Star Wars taking in record-breaking box office figures in the middle of the month, along with the rise of even more comic book movies in the increasingly crowded annual calendar, with December 2018 featuring the billion-dollar hit Aquaman, and the spellbinding modern classic Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse.
As the world gets into the festive spirit, fun and anticipation is in the air all the way through December, and that’s replicated in the films that are released throughout the month every year, whether it be the brilliance of the season’s latest awards contenders or the euphoria of some of the biggest blockbuster hits seen all year.