January movies suck. I think this is a fairly widely agreed-upon fact. To be clear, I’m not simply talking about movies that are playing in theaters throughout the month. Coco came out at Thanksgiving and is still showing at a lot of theaters. But this is only because it’s a fantastic movie, not because it was slated for release in the early weeks of January. For the first few weeks of the month, theaters have a pretty good selection of movies playing, but this is only because the Oscar-bait movies are finally doing wide releases. These movies have already officially been released, either in the last weeks of the previous year or in limited release in New York and Los Angeles (or at a film festival). No, I’m instead talking about those movies (and I use the word generously) that are scheduled to release in January 2018.
But why do they suck? Aside from begging the question of why we have bad movies in general, this query has plagued moviegoers for years. Why are January (and to a large degree February) movies so bad on the whole? I have a few theories.
Theory one: No one goes to the movies in January. Yes, perhaps those of us on break or holiday after New Years are still seeing movies, but by and large we are either rewatching whatever Star Wars movie has just come out, or we’re catching up on the award-worthy movies that we have yet to see. In most cases, however, people just aren’t going to the movies. Unlike me, most of you are real people. Real people, notably, don’t have the time or the inclination to see every movie that’s been nominated for an Academy Award. Real people, notably, haven’t already exhausted their options for every movie that’s been nominated for an Academy Award. Real people, notably (that’s right), are not so desperate to engage in their only defining character trait—watching a lot of movies—that they saw Father Figures and Pitch Perfect 3 in the same day and The Commuter and Paddington 2 in the same weekend. But I digress. No, most people are instead returning to school or work for the new year and the shock of it is likely too much for them to venture out to the theater with any sort of regularity. Bad movies can come out because people aren’t. The people forced to see them are those of us who are going to the movies because they have no idea how to do anything else, or because it allows them to claim sociability when in reality they are sitting in silence in a large dark room with merely the suggestion of the presence of others, only interacting with people when they buy small Coke slurpees from concessions. Which, as I’m told, is totally normal for
a person my age someone who isn’t me.
Theory two: They can’t come out any later than January. It is very different than March or April, when people are getting back into their routines (or going on Spring Break). At this time, ticket sales have a chance to go up on weekends, as kids across the country get a week away from school. What better place for parents to dump their children for two hours on a weekday (or a weekend) than the movie theater? Run along little Johnny, enjoy watching whatever PG or PG-13 superhero movie is slotted for these two months. Any later than this, and you would run into the domain of summer blockbusters. Studios battle it out in front of our eyes with colorful, action-packed, merchandise-oriented movies from Pixar, 20th Century Fox, Walt Disney, Disney Animation, Universal Studios, Warner Bros., Columbia Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Paramount Pictures, and many more. May, June, July, and August are all good times for big-budget summer blockbusters that are designed to draw crowds of children off from school (along with their parents on weekends). September receives the dregs of these four months of mayhem. This time is also when a good studio like A24 begins releasing films again (2018 release calendar begins in March and will continue to December).
Theory three: They can’t come out any earlier than January either. October, November, and December see the start of award-season all over again, with high-quality dramas each vying for the recency bias of the voters. People know this, and will see whatever garbage Marvel and DC spit out over the summer, along with those movies that everyone pats themselves on the back for seeing and understanding that come out in the fall. It would be fruitless to release a bunch of horrible movies (even more than they do already) in these months because people are usually picking movies of a higher caliber. They also can’t release really late in the year (i.e. Christmas releases) because Star Wars and other well-known franchises already have a lock on it. Studios who happen to be making horrible trash movies slot them for January because they can’t compete for ticket sales with movies in other months.
Unfortunately, there is no real solution to this problem, whatever its cause may be. I have taken to writing my complaints down in the hopes that it will somehow legitimize them, but your mileage may vary.
Featured Image by Wikimedia Commons