Box Office Mojo is a treasure trove of data about movies- how much money it takes to make them, how much money they make, which actors and actresses are the most successful, how much is made in foreign markets compared to domestic, and so on. Poking around on the site left me wondering about movie-going habits. Which months attract more viewers? Which months are barren wastelands? I’ve put it all together in a chart that breaks down the trends and times of the year that people go to the movies, by month. It represents all of the full years that Box Office Mojo has available- 1982-2012.
What you see here is the percentage of the total annual box office that each month claimed, individually, for every year from 1982 to 2012. For instance the first bar you see is January 1982’s box office divided by the total box office for 1982, and so forth. There are also highs, lows, and averages for each individual month. And to top it off, I’ve included sparkline-style trends, over the course of the full era that Box Office Mojo keeps stats, for the individual months. As always, click on the image to enlarge.
I knew that the summer months would perform well, and I fully expected January to perform the worst. What I DIDN’T expect was that the averages for November and December would be competitive with (and in the case of December, even surpass) the summer months. June 1982 is a hell of an outlier, buoyed by the massive success of E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial.
What I find interesting is that the outliers have toned down quite a bit in recent years. June, July, and December are still the kings of the year, and January is still the butt-end of the year, but the highs and lows for each individual month are normalized more. Studios are getting better and better at protecting their big budget investments against similar big budget competition, and they spread their releases around the year. December is the peak month, but it’s been less and less so through the sample size. But look at January. It’s absorbing a few of those December releases, slowly increasing to prevent the month from being a total black hole.
On the flip side, May has seen a major boom since the 1980s. Studios started using Memorial Day as a tentpole (forgive me for using that word; holy shit, do I feel dirty right now) and it shows up in May’s increase towards June levels (and even above August). February and March have enjoyed a resurgence in recent years, likely a residual of Oscar season and re-releases, although that’s simply my guess.