There has been much talk over the last few years about how release dates no longer matter, about how Hollywood is summer year-round, and how a movie will open however it will open no matter what the season. Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland crossed the $300 million mark two weeks ago and it now sits at $319 million in the US alone. Whatever my issues are with the film's quality, this is a stunning achievement and puts the film is some very rare company. But just when is the best month for your film to have the strongest chance to reach super-blockbuster status?
Disney's tentpole became just the eighth film to cross $300 million that was not released in either May, June, or July. It's the 28th-highest grossing film of all time, and the 33rd film to cross $300 million since 1977 (Star Wars eventually did it with multiple releases). Of the fabled 'eight not in summer', five of them were released in December. They were Avatar ($742 million), Titanic ($600 million), The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King ($377 million), The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers ($341 million), and The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring ($314 million). The other two were The Passion of the Christ (February - $370 million) and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (November - $317 million). For what it's worth, The Passion of the Christ is the only R-rated film to reach the mark, as the second-highest grossing R-rated film remains The Matrix Reloaded at $281 million.
So it presumes that if one wants their film to reach the $300 million mark, one should release them during prime summer months, no? Amazingly, only five such earners were released in June. They are E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial ($434 million with several releases, $359 million on original release), Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen ($402 million), Spider-Man 2 ($373 million), Jurassic Park ($357 million), and The Lion King ($312 million on original release). Despite officially counting as 'summer', not a single film released in August has ever crossed the $300 million mark, with The Sixth Sense ($293 million) coming closest. So, despite the conventional wisdom of the superiority of the summer months, December has seen more $300 million+ earners than both June and August, albeit all five December champions could be considered anomalies.