Bi-Weekly Essay Question (May 14, 2015)

Every couple of weeks, the OFCS polls its members with a question related to movies. It can be serious or amusing, but each member is given the opportunity to submit a short response to the question, which we will then post on Thursday mornings. Here is this week’s query.

Essay Question #12:

“Furious 7” continues the tradition established last year by “Captain America: Winter Soldier” of essentially kicking off the summer movie season at the start of April. Do you think it’s a good idea to have blockbusters slated so early in the year? Do you think that tentpole films will soon span the entire calendar year?
Edwin Arnaudin @ Asheville Citizen-Times

Responses

Kevin Carr @ Fat Guys at the Movies
It’s not uncommon for movies to make a lot of money in earlier months and not just in the summer or the holidays. “Furious 7” is a bit of an anomaly because it’s part of a franchise that has specifically done well in April in recent years. Next year, the success or failure of “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice” will go a long way to vetting the possibility of an early blockbuster season.

However, with the globalization of the movie marketplace, we are already starting to break out of the summer movie frame. Twenty years ago, summer movie season started on Memorial Day weekend. In the past ten years, it has become a first-weekend-of-May start. This year, “Avengers: Age of Ultron” opened outside of the U.S. in late April (as did “The Avengers” in 2012), becoming a worldwide hit before it even hit screens in the U.S.

So, yes, there will be more blockbusters releasing out of the traditional summer and holiday seasons. However, there will still be dud weekends. Don’t fret, lovers of bad movies and weak box office returns. We will still have September and late January.

Robert Cashill @ Popdose
Good, bad, or indifferent, the “Marvel-verse” and the “DC-verse” are soon to be expanding universally across the calendar, modifying the construct known as the “summer movie season” since the mid-70s and JAWS and STAR WARS. The notion of an endless summer loaded with comic book movies is vaguely depressing, but perhaps that will bring a counterpunch of other kinds of fare as well. And I still think you’ll see warm weather movies, too, beyond superheroes, for holidaying summer audiences. Why should climate change be restricted to the atmosphere?

Candice Frederick @ Reel Talk Online
Well, I think that blockbusters can happen all year round, but I do think there is a particular interest for summer blockbusters. That said, if blockbusters are now happening earlier in the year, what popcorn film can we watch in the summer? The last two summers seemed to have been devoted to indie films (not a bad thing, but still something to note).

Jeremy Kibler @ The Artful Critic
I have no problem with receiving my summer popcorn fare early in the year. Living on the east coast, it’s nice to see a summery blockbuster before the summer season actually begins. However, I hope the tentpoles do not take over the entire year. Summer movies have a place.

Kristen Lopez @ Awards Circuit
I may be 26, but I miss the summer movie season as defined by June/July/August (then again, that just reminds me of how easy school was and how I hate adulthood). We don’t have Will Smith being “Mr. 4th of July,” because he can do that anytime of the year – and he probably wishes he could. There’s no real anticipation of the summer, and thus you can release a big blockbuster whenever and almost always see a return on investment.

James Marsh @ TwitchFilm
Yes,i think tentpoles will inevitably span the calendar yesr at that’s fine. America is increasingly losing its grip as dictator of movie success and trends, and its holidays mean very little overseas. I would rather the blockbusters had some breathing space, rather than all vying for dollars at the same time. It may even help the films too. Will it mean more blockbusters? I doubt the studios can afford it. What it will mean is fewer available screens year-round for anything else. Soon we may get to the stage where the theatrical experience is only available for tentpole releases, and everything else appears solely on digital platforms. If that happens, we’ll need rep cinemas, second run cinemas and independently owned theatres more than ever.

Pat Mullen @ Cinemablographer
Summer Movie Season is more than a three month affair and that’s just fine with me. I couldn’t care less about the new Marvel movie regardless of when it comes out, and I hit the brakes on the Fast and the Furii films around number 2, but I appreciate how studios need to make their tent-pole productions a year-round affair nowadays. The fact that so many theatres are unfortunately offering select premium screens with IMAX, 3D and whatnot means that films have a short window on the prime ticket, so it makes sense that distributors would spread out their big releases as insurance. The year-round affair of blockbusters doesn’t strike me as anything new (re: didn’t Skyfall and Die Another Day open in November ten years apart?) and I only think the recently focus on premium screen entertainment makes tent-pole madness louder and more noticeable than it was before.

Moreover, I think that the industry needs a strong commercial side in order to keep up a base of support for smaller films, whether it’s for a niche arm of a distributor or a small screen at the multiplex that hosts independent films, foreign titles or documentaries. I think last summer’s treasure trove of indie releases shows that the audience for smarthouse films is growing stronger as it seeks alternatives to tent-pole productions that are increasingly indistinguishable. (For ever Marvel movie, we get a Boyhood; for every Twilight, an Only Lovers Left Alive.) If there is a change, it doesn’t really bother me since film is a business just as much as it is an art. I’m happy to let Hollywood churn out as much mindless junk as it wants if it means that there will always be good movies for us to see and review as well.

João Pinto @ Portal Cinema
With Hollywood investing more and more in mega projects like “The Avengers” or “Fast & Furious”, I believe will soon have years and years full of blockbusters, some better than others offcourse. This will limit the potencial of indie movies in the box office, but it’s obvious the studios need more profits to mantain the production of films and other projects.

Jerry Roberts @ Armchair Cinema
If one were to give a theory on why “Furious 7” was being released in April rather than in the midst of the summer movie season, it may be a tactic of getting a popular – though not exhaustively sought after film – into the mix before the hard-hitters step up to the plate. In the case of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” the strategy wasn’t to make more money from a tentpole, so much as to incorporate it’s story into the season finale of “Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D.”

At any rate, from February through April (ostensibly from the end of Oscar season to the beginning of summer) the season of cinema is very dry – often it is a wasteland of pictures too small, too obscure or too unimportant to find themselves among the major players. Releasing a film in April is not necessarily pushing the season back a month, it is a strategy of getting a film out in a dry season that might not do quite as well once the summer gets underway.

Andrew Wyatt @ St. Louis Magazine
Is it a “good idea”? With respect to studios’ bottom lines, I’m sure it is, or they wouldn’t keep pushing the envelope.The question strikes me as sort of absurd, though. The “summer movie season” is an artificial, somewhat arbitrary entity. It only exists because of tradition and/or inertia, and the studios can of course change it any time, should they choose to do so. At best, I suppose the logic goes something like “more free time and money for young viewers in summer,” ergo, “more splashy, youth-targeted films”. That’s an increasingly flimsy assumption—school schedules changing, household income stagnating, more adults paying to see juvenile fare—so of course release patterns are going to continue to shift.

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