Are January and February the New Dumping Ground for Horror Films?

by Nick Banks

In October, HNN noticed that horror films were strangely missing from the October schedule which usually capitalizes on the Halloween season and the audiences need for thrills and chills.  Initially, it appeared that the culprit was The Blair Witch, as studios hurried to move their films away from the expected blockbuster.  The result was more “trick than treat” however, as The Blair Witch was d.o.a. at the box office making a grand total of just under 21 million dollars.  

Looking at the release schedule for January and February, it appears that “the witch” may not be the only one to blame, as nine horror films will debut during the coldest and least profitable months of the year in 2017.  January and February are known to Hollywood executives as “dump months” which refers to the low expectations regarding the box office success of the films and the unwillingness of people to leave their homes during the winter months.  Films that are released in January and February are usually ones that did not perform well at test screenings, films without bankable stars, genre films, and films that are hard to categorize or defy traditional genre conventions.

Even though horror films always make up a portion of the “dump month” schedule, the nine horror films scheduled to be released in January and February of 2017 is an unprecedented number.   Compared to last year (2016) which saw the release of The Forrest, The Boy, and the Witch, the number of horror releases has tripled.   Virtually every weekend in January and February will see at least one new horror film on a screen at your local theater including Underworld: Blood Wars, The Bye Bye Man, Split, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, Blumhouse Untitlted Horror Film (which doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in the quality of the project), Rings, A Cure for Wellness, Patient Zero, and Get Out.  There is only one weekend in January and February (Valentine’s Day weekend) which does not have a new horror film on the schedule. 

This type of decision making does not seem to make sound business sense for studios or fans.  No film will get a chance to make even a modest sum on the opening weekend if the market is saturated to this level, which does not even begin to take into consideration the quality of these productions.  Unless one of these nine films gets positive word-of-mouth and critical reviews, none of them have a chance at making money in back-to-back weeks.  It is also highly unlikely that horror fans will pay to see this amount of films in such a short period of time.  Why some of these films (including Rings which was moved off of its original October 28th, 2016 date) didn’t screen in September, October, or November of this past year is a real mystery.  The rest of the 2017 horror schedule appears to be a more balanced one, with a healthy amount of films around the traditional fall season, but fans and studio executives will soon see if this scheduling log-jam will result in a positive experience for anyone involved.

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