If you follow movie releases, you have probably noticed most of the movies coming out in January (and sometimes February) tend to be pretty awful, getting panned by critics and audiences alike. To get an idea of what January movie releases are like, notable January releases from the past several years include “Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” “Tooth Fairy,” “Norm of the North,” “Leprechaun” and the apocalyptically bad spoof comedies “Epic Movie” and “Meet the Spartans.”
It is generally a good idea to stay away from the theaters for the month of January. Interestingly enough, January is not merely just a cursed month; there are a number of behind-the-scenes reasons for the first month of the year’s subpar cinematic options.
It should be known January is commonly referred to by critics and cinephiles as a “dump month,” because bad movies are constantly dumped into the theater throughout the month. Most of the reason for this is because of the studios and how they treat movies.
“November and December are the window for so-called ‘Oscar bait,’ that is, films hopeful of getting attention for artistic qualities, although obviously some earlier-released films (such as “Dunkirk”) also vie for recognition. So in January, studios have shot their ‘quality’ wad and, being winter and too early for the big late spring and summer blockbusters, we tend to get junk, or occasional sleeper films that might break out of the doldrums,” said Professor Alex Wainer of the School of Communication and Media on the studio logistics behind dump month.
This is the primary factor, but two other potential reasons for subpar January releases have to do with other elements. While it might not affect the people of South Florida as much as other parts of the world, oftentimes the horrible winter weather of northern climates cause people to stay inside, so the studios essentially say “nobody’s going to see it anyways, so let’s just put this mediocre film out now. It’s not like anybody will care that it’s bad.”
Another factor is the holidays. Most other months have holiday weekends that are perfect for releasing movies (such as Easter, Thanksgiving or Christmas), but January does not have any such weekends.
However, that’s not to say that every January release is awful. Like Prof. Wainer said, there are quite a few sleeper films released in January that have gone on to become cult classics, such as “Cloverfield”, “Tremors,” “Scanners,” and “From Dusk Till Dawn.” Outside of the sci-fi and horror genres, “Hidden Figures” was one of the biggest smash hits of 2017 despite coming out at the very beginning of the year. And even in this very year, “Paddington 2,” “Phantom Thread” and “I, Tonya” have all been loved by the critics despite their release date. Perhaps these recent movies mean that future Januaries might hold more enjoyable films than usual. Until then, all we can do is ride out the bad movies and hope for better ones in the months to come.