January has become Hollywood's dumping ground

The Gripe

the gripe

February 02, 2007|By Michael Sragow | Michael Sragow,Sun Movie Critic

It just doesn't feel right. At a time when everyone in real life is harboring hopes and making promises for the new year, the Hollywood studios are intent on breaking every resolution they ever made about creating fresh and exciting popular art.

Unless you're catching up to November or December award contenders, you'll find January is the dumping-ground month for low-expectation movies, from the pseudo-inspirational Stomp the Yard to manic action-exploitation films such as Alpha Dogs and Smokin' Aces.

Do you have a romantic comedy with leads that don't click and a runaway length? The conventional wisdom dictates that you don't promote and distribute Catch and Release in the spring or fall; you simply sit on it and dump it into January.

Do you have an undistinguished computer-animated feature to spring on parents exhausted by the passing holidays? By all means, say the studio heads, open Happily N'Ever After on that 11th day of Christmas, Jan. 5.

The sad part is, on the rare occasion when a good movie, such as Freedom Writers, makes it out in January, people doubt that it's worth the eight bucks. The reviews tell them one thing. The Hollywood calendar tells them something else.

Is there any other industry that writes off an entire month this way? The studios and exhibitors should be trying to fight off deep-winter ennui rather than foster it. Maybe they should just send January movies straight to video and re-release the fall movies at post-holiday sale prices.


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