[[caption-width-right:350:{{Summer|Blockbuster}}'s [[StuffBlowingUp hot]], autumn's [[OscarBait golden]], and winter's [[SnowMeansDeath dead]].]]

->'''Jay Bauman:''' (Fuck You It's) January is the most magical time of the year! You know what that means!\\
'''Mike Stoklasa:''' It means it's time for Hollywood to take out their garbage!\\
'''Jay:''' That's right, Mike! They use our own neighborhood movie theaters to dump their waste!\\
'''Mike:''' I feel just like someone on a boat underneath the [[Music/DaveMatthewsBand Dave Matthews Band]]'s tour bus!
-->-- ''WebVideo/HalfInTheBag'', Episode 65

The big-screen version of the FridayNightDeathSlot, 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. [[TroubledProduction 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 [[SummerBlockbuster the big boys of summer]], star vehicles for [[WhiteDwarfStarlet fading stars]], [[BMovie B-grade]] thrillers and comedies that aren't ''quite'' bad enough to be shuffled into the DirectToVideo netherrealm, films that got [[ScrewedByTheNetwork Screwed by the Studio]] and are only getting released theatrically out of contractual obligation (or 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 (or, these days, on Creator/{{Netflix}} and the like) three months later.

In North America, at least, there are two dump "seasons" -- late summer (August and September), and winter (January, February, and sometimes early March).
* '''August and September''' are obvious -- it's the end of the SummerBlockbuster season and the kiddies are heading back into school, but the holiday season (UsefulNotes/{{Thanksgiving|Day}}, UsefulNotes/{{Christmas|InAmerica}}, and [[UsefulNotes/AcademyAward Oscars]]) where family films and arthouse fare thrive is still months away, while the studios are saving their biggest {{horror}} pictures for [[AllHallowsEve October]]. Plus, many families use UsefulNotes/{{Labor Day|InTheUnitedStates}} weekend (the big holiday during this time) for vacations, barbecues, and watching [[UsefulNotes/AmericanFootball the start of the football season]], keeping them away from the theaters and making it one of the smallest weekends for the box office all year.\\
On the other hand, September is also host to several film festivals, and marks the unofficial start to the race for the big awards. The Venice, Telluride and Toronto International Film Festivals, where many studios first debut their prestige pictures, are all held in September. However, most of these films don't see wide release (i.e. outside UsefulNotes/{{New York|City}} and UsefulNotes/LosAngeles) until later months, meaning that, for the average, non-cinephile moviegoer living in the suburbs of EverytownAmerica, the only new movies worth watching in September are whatever they didn't catch from the summer, or whatever is available on demand.\\
Nowadays, the second half of August is generally considered a comparatively minor dump month, and the first half isn't at all. Films released at this time are usually put here not out of a lack of quality, but because the "main" blockbuster season has gotten so crowded that smaller films are pushed here out of necessity. August 2014, for instance, saw the release of ''Film/GuardiansOfTheGalaxy'', which marked the first time an August release was the highest grossing of the summer since box office was regularly tracked in the 1970s, and ''[[Film/TeenageMutantNinjaTurtles2014 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles]]'', which was also a modest success. In addition, August has become a popular release frame for horror films that can't make the October date, since it offers ample time to get the DVD in stores in time for Halloween without having to compete with the big summer blockbusters,[[note]]This practice owes at least part of its existence to the ''Franchise/{{Saw}}'' and ''Film/ParanormalActivity'' franchises' bulletproof status in October from the mid '00s through the early '10s.[[/note]] and it's also recognized as a great time to release more mature fare aimed at older audiences and women who are burned out from the heat of all the big action movies in the past three months. The unofficial end of the summer season falls sometime in mid-August, give or take a week depending on the year, with one or two final big releases before the drought. However, before UsefulNotes/{{The Blockbuster Age|OfHollywood}} it was considered a dump month like any other -- for example, when Creator/WarnerBros suspected that ''Film/BonnieAndClyde'' would fail, [[ScrewedByTheNetwork they dumped it in August]].

* '''January and February''', meanwhile, are past the cutoff date for UsefulNotes/AcademyAward nominations but before the actual ceremony,[[note]]The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) requires a release in a Los Angeles County theater before midnight on December 31 for a film to be eligible. The Academy Awards themselves have been presented at (depending on the year) either the end of February or the beginning of March since 2004; before then, the ceremony was held in either late March or in April.[[/note]] meaning that all the big 'prestige' pictures have been released and are expanding into wider markets as part of the Oscar campaign. Studios don't want to cannibalize their own films, especially their best films (or at least, their [[OscarBait most Oscar-oriented films]]), so they stock the new release schedule for the next two months mostly with films that were dirt-cheap to produce and get little advertising.\\
On top of this, winter in the U.S. is a time when several large cities at once can easily be shut down by a large snowstorm, greatly lowering movie theater revenue. This is especially known to happen in the densely-populated Northeast and Midwest, and in most of UsefulNotes/{{Canada}} outside ''maybe'' UsefulNotes/{{Vancouver}}. Furthermore, the two main [[UsefulNotes/AmericanHolidays U.S. holiday weekends]] during this time, Martin Luther King Day and Presidents' Day, aren't universally celebrated as days off, so a big-budget release would be wasted in these months without three days of dependable box office returns. Lastly, sporting events are a major draw on every weekend, with the [[UsefulNotes/NationalFootballLeague NFL]] entering its postseason and the [[UsefulNotes/NationalBasketballAssociation NBA]], the [[UsefulNotes/NationalHockeyLeague NHL]], and NCAA college UsefulNotes/{{basketball}} in the middle of their regular seasons.[[note]][[UsefulNotes/MLBTeams Major League Baseball]] is the only one of America's 'big four' sports leagues that plays predominantly in the summer as opposed to late fall and winter.[[/note]] The UsefulNotes/SuperBowl in particular effectively turns the first weekend of February into a dead zone, as the game draws most of the nation's attention towards their televisions and away from theaters.\\
There are some silver linings, however. Valentine's Day weekend is typically a great time to release {{romantic comed|y}}ies and [[ChickFlick female-oriented films]], for obvious reasons. Likewise, teen-oriented films are liable to succeed during this time, largely as counter-programming to the OscarBait and televised sporting events that teens usually aren't as interested in as the adults. Notable examples include ''Film/{{Chronicle}}'', ''Film/WarmBodies'', and ''Film/FiftyShadesOfGrey'' which for many movie theaters was the busiest day for its Saturday Valentine's Day shows. In addition, critically-acclaimed films such as ''WesternAnimation/TheLegoMovie'', ''Film/KingsmanTheSecretService'', ''Film/Deadpool2016'', and ''Film/BlackPanther2018'' have met box office success despite being February releases. January is also a month where leftovers from the OscarBait season see wide release, such as ''Film/HiddenFigures'' and ''Film/PatriotsDay''.\\
The 'winter dump season' typically ends sometime in March. March and April serve as a buffer of sorts between the winter wasteland and the SummerBlockbuster season, offering up lighter fare than the summer yet better quality than the winter as spring break and Easter provide open weeks for families, teenagers, and college kids to go to the movies. Movies that did well at that year's Oscars will often linger for a couple of weeks to do a victory lap as people decide to check out why they won, but as the 'losers' from the Oscars fade out of sight, studios start bringing out their first really big movies of the year. The move of the Oscar ceremony to late February starting in 2004, together with the success of ''Film/ThreeHundred'' in 2007, arguably established the precedent of releasing big movies in March, and since then at least one or two second-tier blockbusters sees release during this month, one of the most notable films being ''Film/TheHungerGames'' (which was number one at the box office for four weeks and one of the biggest hits of 2012).

Many of these films are often NotScreenedForCritics.

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 FridayNightDeathSlot. In particular, given the reputation for crappy products 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 SleeperHit.

Theaters tend to hate this practice, as while it means that their revenue may vary greatly from month to month, their expenses usually don't. Furthermore, their major fluctuation in expenses is seasonal hiring, which is caused by this phenomenon; they'd rather have a full-time staff, since training is its own expense and an experienced staff can provide better service. As a result, in April of 2013 the National Association of Theater Owners sharply criticized the studios for this practice, stating that they believe a good movie can do well in any month. (They also called for fewer R-rated films, and more movies featuring people of color.)

Note that the definition of a "dump month" is not static. Historically, while spring, summer, and late fall have always been premium release seasons, January didn't always have its toxic reputation. ''Boston Globe'' film critic Ty Burr [[http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/20/magazine/how-to-survive-januarys-dearth-of-good-movies.html?_r=0 has noted]] that, during [[UsefulNotes/TheGoldenAgeOfHollywood the days of the studio system]], January saw far more high-quality releases than it did after, with TheForties serving as the high point for January releases. The antitrust decision ''United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc.'' in 1948, forcing the studios to divest their theater chains and end the practice of block booking, meant that movies were no longer guaranteed a long theatrical run at every point in the year, leading studios to cluster their biggest releases around holidays and warmer weather. By TheEighties, with summer blockbusters rising to prominence, the idea of the January leper colony had solidified.

A similar practice exists in book publishing. For example, industry wisdom says not to release your novel in August, or for that matter, anything but textbooks (as that's what people will need in September).

It also exists in VideoGames, especially around Christmas as more sales are expected as gifts.

It also happens to an extent in anime, as the strongest series are reserved for the Fall and Spring TV seasons in Japan.

Compare FridayNightDeathSlot. Contrast OscarBait, SummerBlockbuster.

'''Administrivia/NoRealLifeExamplesPlease''' Fictional examples, discussions of, and references to the trope in other media are acceptable, but a list of films cited as examples of what gets released during 'dump months' is simply too likely to turn into [[Administrivia/ComplainingAboutShowsYouDontLike Complaining About Movies You Don't Like]]. [[noreallife]]


!!Fictional examples and discussions:

* [[http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2012/01/january-dumping-ground-for-terrible-movies-like-contraband/251326/ This]] article by ''The Atlantic'' explains the logic of why January and February are like this.
* As does [[http://www.metacritic.com/feature/are-january-movies-really-that-bad this]] ''Metacritic'' article.
* Parodied by ''Website/CollegeHumor'' in [[http://www.collegehumor.com/video/6717524/march-movies-are-terrible this video]].
* [[Creator/BobChipman Moviebob]] discussed his thoughts on this trope in [[http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/escape-to-the-movies/6111-Total-Recall his review]] of ''Film/TotalRecall2012'', providing the below quotation:
-->"Aw, man. Summer's almost over. And there were really only [[SummerBlockbuster a few truly great summer movies]] this year. And a lot of kinda disappointing ones. Some ''really'' crappy ones. Now all I've got to look forward to are the big wasteland of movies that aren't classy enough to come out for [[UsefulNotes/AcademyAward Oscar]] season or aren't exciting enough to come out in summer. Ugh. This is always so depressing."
** He provides further thoughts on it in [[http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/escape-to-the-movies/6699-Gangster-Squad his review]] of ''Film/GangsterSquad'', arguing that, since most people are short on cash in early January thanks to the holiday shopping season, they're more reluctant to go to the movies until they have some savings built back up.
* [[http://www.joblo.com/movie-news/cmon-hollywood-spread-out-your-oscar-fare This article]] criticizes this trope, arguing that Hollywood should spread out its Oscar fare over the whole year rather than cramming them into the fall and leaving September as a "holding pattern", thus making it easier to catch up on the nominees rather than be given just two months to see them all.
* Referred to by Creator/BradJones during his ''WebVideo/MidnightScreenings'' when [[http://thatguywiththeglasses.com/videolinks/bj/bcmr/40223-midnight-screening-qpercy-jackson-sea-of-monstersq-and-qwere-the-millersq talking about]] ''Film/WereTheMillers'' which he referred to as an "August Movie". His friend Brian pointed out that August is where they put movies that "aren't a sure thing".
* ''WebVideo/HalfInTheBag'' coined the phrase "Fuck you, it's January!" to mock the low standards for movies released during that month.
* [[http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/brow_beat/2014/02/february_movies_are_bad_here_s_statistical_proof_of_it.html This article]] on ''Slate'' refers to February as the worst movie month of the year. It also comes with a chart that highlights the dump months by year (starting with 2000), including how the winter dump season started narrowing to just January and February from the mid-'00s onward.
* Film critic Janet Maslin of ''[[UsefulNotes/AmericanNewspapers The New York Times]]'', after one particularly... ''memorable'' January at the movies[[note]]That January, in 1989, would later be ranked in 2013 as [[http://www.vulture.com/2013/01/january-worst-movie-release-month.html the worst January in the last 25 years]] going by Website/RottenTomatoes averages.[[/note]], wrote [[http://www.nytimes.com/1989/02/05/movies/film-view-is-january-the-cruelest-month.html this article]] in 1989 explaining the phenomenon. In particular, she notes that many "January movies" tend to be, for better or worse, very offbeat and quirky, the sort of films that would never play in the more "respectable" seasons.
* The ''Series/SaturdayNightLive'' season 40 [[http://www.joblo.com/movie-news/cool-videos-dr-evil-takes-sony-and-north-korea-to-school-235 episode]] hosted by Creator/AmyAdams featured a ColdOpen by Creator/MikeMyers as [[Film/AustinPowers Dr. Evil]], mocking the cancellation of ''Film/TheInterview''[='=]s release in response to UsefulNotes/{{North Korea}}n terrorist threats. His advice to Kim Jong-un?
-->'''Dr. Evil:''' You're one of the most evil countries in the world, and your act of war is to kill a movie? It's easy to kill a movie. Just move it to January.
* {{Defied|Trope}} in [[http://bloody-disgusting.com/editorials/3381035/10-horror-films-released-in-february-that-were-actually-good/ this article]] by Trace Thurman of Bloody-Disgusting, listing ten horror movies released in February that actually weren't terrible. He notes how January and February have a terrible reputation for this, with studios using the time to clear house on movies they think will bomb, which makes it that much more fulfilling to find a diamond in the rough.
* The WebVideo/CinemaSins review of ''New Moon'' jokes that it must be January if the only movies the characters have a choice of going to see are called "Face Punch" and "Love Spelled Backwards Is Love".