After Oscars, will we have to wait another seven months for good movies?

All of this year’s Oscar nominees for Best Picture were released in October or later, so after all is said and done in this year’s campaign, will we have to wait that long for the next batch of quality movies? (Make your prediction as to what will win this year at the bottom of this post using our easy drag-and-drop menu.)

Studios have been backloading the calender with their Oscar films for years, but I wonder if they really need to. When everyone crowds into October, November, and December, everyone loses.

Audiences who lack a wide variety of quality, grown-up movies for much of the year have to pick and choose between an overwhelming number of options late in the year, so many films inevitably fall through the cracks. The same is true for awards voters, who are inundated with screenings and screeners at the last minute, so they too must choose which worthy films they’ll neglect.

Yes, making a strong last impression on Oscar-voters can be advantageous, but to an extent is it a self-fulfilling prophecy? Everyone believes it, so everyone does it, and you repeat the result.

Ultimately, a savvy Oscar campaign matters more than your release date. “Argo” opened in October 2012, right in that academy sweet-spot. It survived the even later releases of films like “Les Miserables,” “Life of Pi,” “Lincoln,” and “Zero Dark Thirty.” Did it peak too soon? Clearly not. Maybe the very idea of peaking too soon is mostly the invention of us awards-watchers who talk the contenders to death before the academy has a chance to weigh in.

“The Hurt Locker” certainly didn’t peak too soon either. It opened in June 2009 and made very little money, but it topped fall releases like “Avatar” and “Precious” at the Oscars.

“Gladiator” (2000 and “Crash” (2005) opened even earlier in their respective years: both of these Best Picture champs were May releases.

An early release can even be beneficial, especially for smaller films, which can gather buzz and critical support without being trampled during the fall stampede. That strategy has helped independent films like “Beasts of the Southern Wild” (June 2012), “Winter’s Bone” (June 2010), “The Kids are All Right” (July 2010), and “Little Miss Sunshine” (July 2006), which all earned Best Picture bids.

Even early films that aren’t nominated for Best Picture often have enough support to contend in major categories, like the recent screenplay bids by “Moonrise Kingdom” (May 2012), and “Before Midnight” (May 2013), and the Best Actor nomination for Demian Bichir in “A Better Life” (June 2011).

“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” opened way back in March but was still nominated for Best Actress (Kate Winslet) and won Best Original Screenplay at the 2004 Oscars. 

If voters are inclined to like you, I think they’ll still like you even if you’re released early, as long as you remind them during the fall with ads, promotional events, and screeners – the usual campaign shenanigans that are needed these days to signify a major contender.

Meanwhile, late releases can also backfire. Well-reviewed films like “Quartet,” “A Dangerous Method,” and “Young Adult” came and went in recent years and were barely a blip on the awards radar. Whether they would have fared better with earlier releases is debatable, but being crammed at the end of the calendar year with myriad other contenders didn’t seem to help.

Anyway, my favorite film of any given year is rarely the last one I see, but maybe that’s just me. Is it really helpful to leave the last impression, or would the Oscars and moviegoers as a whole be better served with strong contenders opening throughout the year? Discuss in the comments below:

9 thoughts on “After Oscars, will we have to wait another seven months for good movies?

  1. I have high hopes for “Grand Budapest Hotel.” The trailer looks like the most Wes-Andersony thing that ever Wes-Andersoned, but it also looks like he’s got he’s got Ralph Fiennes giving a kind of performance we’ve never seen from him. That alone might be worth the price of admission.

  2. Most of the movies that come out early or during the summer whether good quality or not are trashed as being popcorn films. Then you have the last fall movies which are considered best picture material and one finds out these films are over rated over praised and over hyped by film critics. Its seem the pendulum swings what ever way the film critics pitch it. So in the end its not what the Academy consensus is to what the best pictures are but what the film critics say they are and more times than not these critics can’t even
    agree. So yes there are a lot of good quality movie early in the year it is just that these films aren’t given the credit due them. “Rush” and “Prisoners” come to mind.

  3. But let’s not forget probably the all time long distance winner. Silence of the Lambs opened on Valentine’s Day and then won all those Oscars over a year later. Granted times have changed a bit, but who knows what the future holds.

  4. Grand Budapest Hotel! But yeah, that’s definitely the only film I have to look forward to seeing in the near future, though it probably won’t be playing where I live until the summer. I had to wait a very long time after Moonrise Kingdom’s release to see it in a theater out here. Inside Llewyn Davis never even came to town. It’s not like we don’t lack for screens, there are at least four high-quality theaters with multiple screens in driving distance. I often miss many high-quality movies because they either don’t come to town, or they are released only for a couple of weeks, and by the time they are released are on DVD, I’ve either forgotten about their existence, or I have no luck finding a Redbox that carries it. But I guess my point is, I do wish theaters would release more high quality movies over the year, because if they all come out at the end of the year, then most theaters around here will probably start showing them in January, and I imagine they have to pick and choose which high-quality movies they will show, since they have to reserve so many screens for movies like Anchorman 2 and Thor. Releasing high-quality movies over the course of a year might provide a chance for more to be seen in smaller cities.

  5. I definitely think they can turn out an animated film nomination for the Lego Movie. the release date is less of an issue with that category. But in the end, I think in order to make an early bird a best picture contender, it depends on how much money the studio is willing to put into a campaign.

  6. In the age of social media, it seems you have to release the movie late in the year as it is even easier to forget about a movie. Look what happened to the Butler this year. Heck even Rush was hurt by being released in September of all months. I agree with Daniel though it sucks for moviegoers because not enough good movies throughout the year. Instead everything crammed over 2 or 3 months.

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