The cinematic version of the Friday Night Death Slot
, the Dump Months
are certain months of the year that are viewed as, effectively, cinematic landfills where little of value can be found at the box office. Disastrous productions
that the studio wants to get behind them as quickly as possible with minimal fallout, low-budget genre fare that can't hang with the big boys of summer
, star vehicles for fading stars
thrillers and comedies that aren't quite
bad enough to be shuffled into the Direct-to-Video
netherrealm, films that the studio's been sitting on for years
and are only getting released theatrically a) out of contractual obligation or b) because somebody involved with the film has dirt on a studio executive, all of this goes to the dump months to be forgotten about by the time they come out on DVD and start airing late at night on cable three months later.
In the US, at least, it is the months of January, February and September that are most often seen as dump months.
- September is obvious -- it's the end of the Summer Blockbuster season and the kiddies are back in school, but the holiday season (Thanksgiving, Christmas and Oscars) where family films and arthouse fare thrive is still months away, while the studios are saving their biggest horror pictures for October. Plus, many families use Labor Day weekend (the big holiday during this month) for vacations, barbeques and watching football, keeping them away from the theaters.
- January and February, meanwhile, are past the cutoff date for Academy Award nominations but before the actual ceremony, meaning that all the big "prestige" pictures have been released and are expanding into wider markets as part of the Oscar campaign. Plus, winter in the US is a time when several large cities at once, especially in Northern states, can easily be shut down by a large snowstorm, preventing people in those cities from getting out of their house to go to the movies. Studios don't want to cannibalize their own films, especially their best films (or at least, their most Oscar-oriented films), nor do they want to risk freak weather events killing their big movies' box office prospects, so they stock the new release schedule mostly with cheaply-produced crap for two months.
Once in a while, a film released in a dump month will break out and become a hit. Defiance of the "dump month curse" is a bit more common than defiance of the Friday Night Death Slot
. Movies marketed towards teens are often exceptions to the rule (hey, it's not like they have much better to do in the dead of winter), as are low-budget films. Plus, given the reputation for crappy product that the dump months hold, a merely good
film that would've been outshined by great
ones at any other time of year has a chance of breaking out and becoming a blockbuster hit.
Compare Friday Night Death Slot
. Contrast Oscar Bait
, Summer Blockbuster
No Real Life Examples, Please!
. Fictional examples, discussions of, and references to the trope in other media are okay, but a list of films cited as examples of what gets released during "dump months" will just turn into Complaining About Movies You Dont Like
Fictional examples and discussions:
- This article by The Atlantic explains the logic of why January and February are like this.
- As does this Metacritic article.