Summer is over, but that doesn't mean summer blockbuster movies are going dormant.
The traditional summer blockbuster has been slowly making its march back to the beginning of the year. Historically, the summer movie season ran from Memorial Day Weekend through the end of July; but over the last couple years, movie studios have begun questioning the season's significance.
"What a summer movie means today is different than what it meant five years ago," says Daniel Loria, vice president of content strategy and editorial director at BoxOffice Media. "The way audiences consume their relationship with going to the movies is something that's not just going to happen in the summer anymore."
"The Lego Movie" was one of the first films to prove this trend. After its release in Feb. 2014, it raked in over $469 million worldwide, leaving $229 million in net profit to Warner Bros. Since then, other films with blockbuster potential, like this year's "Deadpool" (February) and "The Jungle Book" (April), have followed suit.
"A 'summer movie' can still do fantastically well in March. It can still be a hit," Loria said. "Look at 'Batman vs. Superman,' for example."
Loria hopes more studios will adopt this philosophy, but he doesn't think films looking for awards attention will make the move. Awards season starts in the Fall, and most arthouse films believe a release date closer to the end of the year is crucial to getting noticed.
"For a movie aiming to win an Oscar, there is sort of a seasonal calendar for that. You want to be promoting your movie in festivals and then release it in theaters later," says Bruce Nash, founder and publisher of The-Numbers.com, a provider of movie industry data and research services. Nevertheless, "Winter's Bone," "Beasts of the Southern Wild" and "Boyhood" received Oscar nominations despite their summer release dates.
There's an increasing competition over release dates for "summer movies." Box office stakes are even higher for franchises. "The Avengers" and "X-Men," for example, not only have to be a hit with moviegoers on the first run, but must sustain two, three and sometimes four movie sequels. That kind of success is difficult to predict.
The "Divergent" franchise is a good case in point. Unlike "Twilight" and "The Hunger Games," "Divergent"'s third film, "Allegiant," failed to be a box office leader this spring, raking in just over $179 million. As a result, its fourth and final installment will skip theaters and air on television.
"We're seeing more movies become trapped in this cycle," Nash explained. "There is a lot of pressure to remain in the top tier in order to maintain it."
Aside from shifting a blockbuster's release date, studios have turned to marketing in an effort to boost performance. Marketing spending has jumped 33 percent since 2007 with studios spending at least $200 million to market a single movie, according to "The Hollywood Reporter."
"If a big-budget movie is well-marketed, well-made and can define its audience, it can succeed any time of year," Nash said.
To that end, movie marketers are seeking out new and innovative ways to generate movie buzz through Facebook and Comic Con as well as through an overseas market.
The key to success, however, depends on producing a fresh idea, and movies seem to have lost sight of originality compared to television.
"We're seeing a creative revolution happening on TV and Netflix," Nash said. "We haven't seen that yet in movies, but I'm confident someone will come along to change that."
Reach Staff Reporter Betsy Carter here.