06/13/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Chronology of the $300 Million Movie

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.

For the rundown of the two best months for blockbusters, and what this means for the coming summer season, read the rest of this article at Mendelson's Memos.