Thursday, October 11, 2012

Release date musical chairs: How to fix the upcoming November/December clusterf**k...

I mentioned this briefly last night, but taking a look at the release date calendar of the last two months of the year, it is clear that something is quite amiss.  It's not just a matter of too many movies being released at the end of the year, nor even a matter of too many "Oscar bait" pictures drowning each other out as is sometimes the case.  No, when you look at the release calendar for November and December, you notice an odd pattern.  There are nine weeks in the last two months of the year, during which we have a total of twenty-one (21) wide releases, counting the November 16th expansion of Spielberg's Lincoln.  Now you might think "Oh, that's about two per week, that's not so bad".  But the problem is the scheduling itself.  There are five of those nine weeks with just a single new release, leaving the fifteen other movies to fight it out over the remaining five weeks.  It gets even more dire when you look at the specific release schedules in question.  You've got four weekends with one (1) new release and one weekend with two (2) new nationwide releases.  That leaves fifteen movies fighting it out over four weekends, four weekends which now average 3.75 films a weekend.  Something's gotta give and/or someone has to have the good sense to move around a bit and spread the wealth.

The first weekend of November is pretty much packed, with Robert Zemeckis's Flight, the Disney animated feature Wreck It Ralph, and the RZA/Russell Crowe martial-arts adventure The Man With the Iron Fists.  So you've got three wide releases that arguably target three different demographics.  So far, so good.  But just the next weekend you have the understandably 800-pound gorilla that is Skyfall.  Despite the fact that Skyfall is probably looking at an $80 million opening weekend, there is still room for some kind of counter-programming.  Why not release Weinstein's The Silver Linings Playbook and let the allegedly terrific film parlay strong word of mouth going into the Thanksgiving holiday?  As it is, the Bradley Cooper/Jennifer Lawrence dramedy is one of four wide releases on Turkey-Day weekend and arguably the one least likely to be the consensus family pick due to its (I presume) R-rating.  After that you have another small weekend, with only the nationwide expansion of Lincoln and the release of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn part II.  Obviously Breaking Dawn 2 is going to make $140-$160 million no matter what the competition is, but the Twilight fanbase is so entrenched at this point that there is indeed room for counter-programming.  We can of course argue that Lincoln aims to be the Blind Side of the Thanksgiving 2012 season and leave it at that.  That brings us to a four-film Thanksgiving holiday.

Dreamworks' Rise of the Guardians will likely top the new releases by virtue of being a PG-rated animated adventure, so it stays put.  I think Silver Linings Playbook is picking a dangerous weekend to go wide, although much of that depends on if it gets an R or a PG-13.  Life of Pi is aiming to be this year's Hugo, the big-budget Oscar-bait family film that no families actually want to see.  Red Dawn is well, Red Dawn.  Unless Film District has some kind of "grassroots" market to the Tea Party campaign up its sleeve, it probably would be toast no matter when it opened.  But again, any one of these films, save for Rise of the Guardians would be arguably better suited for the next two nearly-empty weekends.  Weinstein has Killing Them Softly dropping on November 30th, arguably because Harvey didn't want the angry political polemic to influence the election against Barack Obama (it's a very good film, but I'm not allowed to review it yet).    The next weekend, December 7th, sees the Gerald Butler rom-com Playing For Keeps which shockingly enough opens unopposed.  Again, this would be a prime weekend to move into for any of the various films stuck on the traffic jam weekends.  December 14th was supposed to be a clash of the titans with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and Les Miserables facing off.  But Universal inexplicably moved Les Miz to Christmas Day, further crowding the last weekend of the year and leaving Middle Earth unopposed.  Yes, The Hobbit part 1 of 16 is going to be huge, but there is still room for counter-programming 

Because the last two weekends of the year have eight (8) wide releases clogging up the Christmas season.  December 19th sees Jack Reacher and Monsters Inc. 3D while December 21st sees This Is Forty and Zero Dark Thirty.  December 25th sees Django Unchained, The Guilt Trip, Parental Guidance, and Les Miserables.  You can't possibly convince me that the massive overcrowding, specifically over Christmas and Thanksgiving, isn't going to hurt all the films being released during those prime dates?  And you can't possibly convince me that spreading out at least the eight films opening over the last two weekends onto the several basically unopposed weekends wouldn't help everyone.  Offhand, I'd move Django Unchained to December 14th, move Monsters Inc. 3D back to what was its intended mid-January 2013 release date, and throw Zero Dark Thirty into the December 7th spot (Red Dawn can die on Thanksgiving leaving the world no poorer).   Again when you're dealing with hard-R rated material, opening on a holiday weekend is a bit of a risk. Ask yourself: If a large family with kids of varying ages are all going to a movie after Thanksgiving or Christmas, are they really going to pick *my* movie?  If not, I'd advise fleeing the holiday weekend.   I'd move Life of Pi out of Thanksgiving for this reason, but I'm not sure where one safely opens such an unusual film, so I guess Fox will tempt fate.

Obviously this is speculation based on box office history as I know it, but I'm personally predicting an out-and-out bloodbath over the end of December, one that arguably doesn't need to happen.  I've often said that the smooshing together of prestige pictures at the end of the year can turn what should be a joy, seeing the best films of the year, into a chore/marathon sprint.  This year has them much better spread out, only to find us with a final two months filled with seemingly worthwhile popcorn fare all smooshed together as well.  This doesn't have to happen because there is no reason that Skyfall, Killing Them Softly, and/or Playing For Keeps (especially Playing For Keeps) need to open unopposed.  You have nine weeks of release dates, I say to the studios: Use them!.  Spread the wealth.  The audiences will appreciate it and I'd argue box office will reflect as much.  But that's just my opinion for the morning.  What are your thoughts?  Are the prime release dates overbooked this year or will you somehow be able to see everything you want to see in a timely fashion anyway?  What release date choices would you make?  Sign off below.

Scott Mendelson


Kyle Leaman said...

Here Here!

Kyle Leaman said...

Although, you certainly missed the most important film of December that everyone is trying to clear space from, Jackie Chan's 'Chinese Zodiac' on December 12th. There is no such thing as counter-programming against Jackie Chan!

Liam_Ho said...

Slight typo Scott, I believe its titled Rise of the Guardians.


Related Posts with Thumbnails