Unless you are still catching up with the Oscar nominated movies that you haven’t seen, February can be a tricky month for finding “really like” movies at the theaters. The winter months of January, February, and March don’t lure many moviegoers to the cinema. The average domestic box office gross for a movie widely released in February is a little over $28 million. For the entire year the average gross for a typical movie is in excess of $38 million. As a result, movie producers don’t release many movies that they’ve invested heavily in during the month of February. You can see this in the size of the production budgets for February releases. The average February movie has a production budget of around $36 million compared to an average for the year of around $46 million. So should we just stay home and watch “really like” movies available on our streaming services? That’s actually not a bad strategy. I’m kidding! Well maybe a little bit.
Seriously though, February is a tricky month but it’s not hopeless. Movie producers are skilled at finding a strategy that works at different times of year and sticking with it. For example in recent years, February has proven to be a good month to successfully kick off franchises for lesser known comic book characters like Deadpool and Kingsman: The Secret Service. This year Marvel is kicking off the new franchise Black Panther in February. It premiered in Los Angeles on January 29th and opens overseas on February 13th before opening widely in the United States on February 16th. The early IMDB score is a promising 7.5. We won’t know if that rating is holding up until we get closer to the US opening. Stay tuned.
Many Oscar nominated movies for Best Foreign Language film weren’t released in the United States until the February after their overseas release to see if they could transform Oscar buzz into US Box Office success. The foreign classic Life is Beautiful was released in the United States in February. This year it is A Fantastic Woman, which opens in the US tomorrow, that is getting the buzz. The good thing about this foreign slice of February releases is that they already have a significant body of data from their prior year release overseas. A Fantastic Woman is Certified Fresh 87% on Rotten Tomatoes, has a Metacritic score of 90, and an IMDB average rating of 7.5.
If you are looking for an Oscar caliber movie in February, the odds are against you. Silence of the Lambs is the only movie released for the first time in February (not a prior year holdover) to win an Academy Award for Best Picture. If Get Out wins Best Picture this year it will become the second February release to do so. The one thing that both movies have in common is that they both had modest production budgets. Silence of the Lambs had a budget of $19 million and Get Out had a budget of $4.5 million. The other thing that they have in common is that they are both from the Horror/Thriller genre. The third thing they have in common was that their success was unexpected. I don’t see any movie on the February release schedule that I would expect to be this year’s Get Out, which, I guess, would make the emergence of such a movie, well, unexpected.