February is “dump month” at the movies

It’s that time of year when generally low theater attendance limits a film’s potential box office return.

Together with

The Future. It’s that time of year when generally low theater attendance limits a film’s potential box office return. So, studios offload their weakest movies before they spend big bucks promoting their tentpoles and Oscar hopefuls later in the year. While this practice has been around in Hollywood forever, it could eventually disappear as streaming platforms become a cheaper dumping ground for commercially and critically unviable flicks in the streaming era.

Tinseltown’s timetable
Forbes breaks down the modern movie release schedule.

  • Spring is sequel season, with Creed III, Scream VI, Shazam! Fury of the Gods, and John Wick: Chapter 4 all hitting the big screen this March.
  • Summer is blockbuster season, with comic book movies and animated franchises vying for attention. Marvel generally lays claim to the first weekend in May, and 2023 is no exception, with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 arriving in theaters on May 5th.
  • Fall is prestige season, with the occasional blockbuster thrown in as counter-programming.
  • Winter, on the other hand, is a cinematic wasteland. January and February lineups have historically included films that test poorly, movies with smaller stars, and genre films (particularly horror).

Making a scene
The quickest way for a film to end up in the cinematic landfill is to lose support among studio executives, according to Forbes. Lack of faith in a completed project might stem from a troubled shoot, poor test screenings, or the departure of the exec who greenlit the movie.

Another way is through a clause in a filmmaker or performer’s contract that guarantees a theatrical release despite a movie’s low expectations.

In the past, a dump-month film that went straight to VOD might have carried a stigma. But in the post-pandemic marketplace, it could actually draw a bigger audience on the small screen than it ever could in theaters.

Kait Cunniff

Kait is a Chicago-raised, LA-based writer and NYU film grad. She created an anthology TV series for Refinery29 and worked as a development executive for John Wells Productions, Jon M. Chu, and Paramount Pictures. Her favorite color is orange.


No design skills needed! 🪄✨

Canva Pro is the design software that makes design simple, convenient, and reliable. Create what you need in no time! Jam-packed with time-saving tools that make anyone look like a professional designer.

Create amazing content quickly with Canva