Though a lot of the country may still be in the frosty grip of winter, if you’ve found yourself making trips to the movie theater recently you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s the middle of July. That’s because the cinemas are currently being filled with the sort of big budget spectacles moviegoers are used to seeing in the summer months. Between box office champ Logan’s all time best opening for the X-Men spinoff franchise, the adventure film Kong: Skull Island resurrecting an iconic movie monster, and the highly anticipated Disney movie Beauty and the Beast later this month, March is bringing us traditional summer fare early. And while it’s nice to have options beyond Oscar prestige films and bottom of the barrel schlock, this does raise the question how did a film schedule so heavily based in tradition would begin this new approach?
The first and most basic reason behind this is that the summer and Christmas film seasons are extremely crowded. Major studio films have long targeted this season in part because having students off from school significantly increases its potential audience. Because of this, studios often try to lock down summer releases far in advance, in often-competitive fashion. Yet even if you can secure one of these slots, films can still often struggle to be remembered beyond their opening weekend with so many other new films that will siphon attention away from it. Because of this March has become an appealingly less competitive alternative to the summer and Christmas chaos. With kids off from school all throughout the month, films have the potential to still gain that bonus grosses while getting significantly more attention.
Playing just as large a factor is the fact that studios have discovered loyal fans of franchises and properties will not be scared off by a non-holiday release date. With the rise of superhero film universes and CGI remakes, films like Logan or last years Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice both found financial success in March, understanding that devotees will line up for it no matter what date it came out. Because Disney films like Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The Jungle Book opted for release dates in April and March respectively, the studios were able to successfully conclude these franchises could still be extremely successful after August or before May. That is why studios are betting devoted fans of Beauty and the Beast or Power Rangers will make the trek out to the theaters no matter the time of the year.
Now that the trend has been established, the question becomes whether March will end up becoming as competitive as the summer? With blockbusters beginning to arrive on a weekly basis and spring sleeper hits like Get Out also in play, studios may find their spring fling with March fall apart. But for the moment, at least the multiplexes are alive again and giving us a respite from these last gasps of winter.