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Dumping The Dump Month: Cinema and September

Believe it or not, some people still go to the cinema. Radical, isn’t it.

Against the greatest of odds, millions of movie-goers find themselves resisting the temptation of Netflix, Sky Movies and straight-up piracy, choosing instead to make the trip to their local movie theatre in order to get their cinematic fix. I’m one of these people. Perhaps I’m just the sentimental type, but I find there’s still something gloriously romantic about paying for the big screen. It’s exciting, it’s fun – it’s what seeing a film should be. However, I’ll be the first to admit that there are times when this venture seems less appealing than usual. Sometimes it’s when I’m broke (being a student and paying rent in London, this accounts for roughly 96% of my existence), other times it’s when I can’t find someone to go with (as wonderful as the cinema experience is, it’s a much better one shared – nobody wants to be that guy). Most of the time, though, the one, deterring factor is neither the precarious state of my finances, nor my unwavering loneliness. It’s because there’s fuck all on.

Happens a lot, doesn’t it? In a bluster of fantastic spontaneity, you’ll decide to spend your evening at the cinema, only to be met with the sole prospect of an Adam Sandler flick. Suddenly, loneliness doesn’t seem so bad. These dull periods aren’t just a result of your elitist filmic snobbery (but seriously, fuck Adam Sandler movies) – they’re actually what the industry refers to as ‘Dump Months’.

Historically, Dump Months contribute towards two segments of the year where distributors foresee minimal turnout for their film, and as a result, will release the movies they believe will perform poorly (both critically and commercially), within these periods. The first of the Dump Month periods tends to begin in late January, running until mid-February. The second, and often regarded as the worst, is September. This, my friends, is cinema’s dumping ground.

There are a number of reasons September finds itself wearing this unsavoury crown. Firstly, it’s Back To School time. Your archetypal blockbusters are crafted for younger audiences, and rely on paying families to make up their revenues. If you’ve just spent $150 million making Jurassic World, you’re not going to release it when a significant proportion of your paying audience won’t be around to see it –  if big money is invoved, August is your cut-off point. Continuing with this idea, you’ll find that the next significant period in the cinematic calendar following the summer months is awards season. This is where you’ll find your Oscar contenders. Though the ceremonies in question usually begin in November, ballots are sent out to voters in October in order to collect nominations. As a result, distributors will release their awards hopefuls in conjunction.. Now, can you see September’s problem? Here it is, packed like a sardine between the film industry’s two most important periods, occupying a allegoric purgatory that is neither one or the other. It’s too late if you want to make money, and it’s too early if you’re serious about winning an Oscar. As a result, poor old September finds itself left with the duds. If the release of your film happens to fall within September’s 30 day duration, you can count that as a vote of no confidence from the higher powers. Even the change in weather has an effect on turnout. It’s a nasty business.

Kind of devalues my initial argument, doesn’t it? How can going to the cinema still be romantic when it’s quantifiably-driven and regimented? Well, no! Not on my watch! September, I’m going to fight your corner.

While, indisputably, September will always find itself having to accommodate some total shit (I’m still looking at you, Sandler), I’m happy to inform you that some diamonds will always slip through the net. Despite what the men in the suits may think, they often find themselves getting it wrong. More fool them. For instance, David Cronenberg’s viscerally excellent A History of Violence was a September release, as were both Good Night, Good Luck and Zoolander. If you saw Kevin Spacey and Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Oscar-winning turns in American Beauty and Capote respectively, then you’d have been sat in the cinema in the month of September. Sweet Home Alabama, for God’s sake, was a September film. I’m naming some of the finest releases in the past two decades, all of which were dumped in the Dump Month. 

This month, you’ll find a host of treats waiting to be unearthed. Viggo Mortensen looks set to break hearts in Captain Fantastic, while Woody Allen fans will rejoice at the news that Café Society is finally here. You can find Tom Hanks as the titular pilot in Clint Eastwood’s Sully, and the formidable Michael Fassbender sharing the screen with the equally-formidable Alicia Vikanda in The Light Between Oceans. I could go on, because there are more, but I won’t – because that’d almost take the fun out of it. Film is still exciting, and September is a willing and important contributor. Wander down to your local cinema and allow yourself to be pleasantly surprised, because I can assure you that you will be. Let’s get together, join hands with September, and mess with the pie charts. It’s the right thing to do.

Words by Niall Flynn

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