Words by Benjamin Pinsent
Can you tell what type of movie you are going to watch by what date it comes out? The short answer is most of the time yes.
The long answer is that movie studios have schedules to release certain types of films. The most recognisable is the autumn movie season, due to the year drawing to the close and the looming presence of year end award ceremonies such as the Oscars and the BAFTA’s, one can bet that most studios will lead with their best foot when it comes to their films.
Most of the films released during the autumn will be award bait, mostly a high quality film, but formulaic. Such as films like The Kings Speech (2011) were made for the autumn season, historical drama’s, Bio-pics and a human story are the fodder for award shows. They generally have top dramatic actors attached to them like Phillip Seymor Hoffman or Colin Firth.
A warning: due to the main aim of these films is to win awards, there is a likelihood that they will be overly sentimental and highly self congratulatory. There are some gems hidden among the rest but most will be smug, pretentious fare that will largely be forgotten at years end.
October is, of course part of the autumn release block, however it holds a distinction, all Hallows Eve approaches and it will be when most of the year’s horror films be released. The obvious links to Halloween are there, so those with a morbid inclination may want to keep their ears pricked for October releases. I won’t go into the sorry state of modern horror films today, with their emphasis on quantity of kills rather than quality of scares. Some horror films will be released through out the year due to certain themes or time settings.
The Winter season is a little harder to pin down. There will still be award show films being released, but it is mainly the time of year that the family feel good films or the more fantastical films are released. Due to the quick succession of Thanks Giving and Christmas in America, there is an emphasise on the importance of family at that time, and thus the films reflect that attitude: Films like Home Alone with a Christmas theme will appear here. Or the new fantasy films that weren’t considered good enough for a summer release like the early Harry Potter films.
Spring is an ‘anything goes’ season, it is a quick offload point where films that were not good enough for the award or family season are put. It is also the start of the festival circuit, and the beginning of the wait for the summer season.
Summer is the most profitable time of year for the movie business and it is also the start of the blockbuster season. This is the time for big names and big action, the new franchise hopefuls appear here, mainly things like Jason Bourne or comic book movies. The festival circuit will also be in full swing and film buffs will be slavering over the promise of foreign and local drama. Nerds will be champing at the bit with other big announcements for the latest science fiction or fantasy films at convention halls like San Diego Comic-con.
Now these rules aren’t set down in stone and there will be a blurring between the seasons. There are also those that break the preconceptions and sometimes a good film will be placed in the spring season, dramas will be released in the summer and Adam Sandler comedies will be released in the autumn. Also each countries’ film industry may have their own schedule. But this is a rough guild to what you can expect at anytime of the year from Hollywood.