‘Annihilation’ Looks Awesome, But The Release Date Is Troubling

The teaser trailer for Annihilation hit the internet and the internet loved it. But, the February release date worries me.

The sci-fi thriller stars Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin and Deepwater Horizon), Tessa Thompson (Westworld, Thor: Ragnarok), Tuva Novotny (?), and Oscar Isaac (Star Wars, X-Men Apocalypse). It’s written and directed by Alex Garland, who was the writer-director of Ex Machina, and seems like a mix of Arrival and Midnight Special. Slam dunk, right?

Eh, maybe not. I’ve always thought that January and August were the biggest “dump” months for studios. That’s when distributors dump the movies they have the least confidence in onto the viewing public like “Here, take or leave it. Long hair, don’t care.” Why? Because people are less likely to go to the theaters during those periods.

If you’re like “Huh?” or “Hwhat?”, just take a look at the top box-office earners in those two months:


Top January Movie Releases by Tickets Sold

Top January Movie Releases by Tickets Sold

Other than American Sniper, the Star Wars re-release, and The Revenant (which initially released in December and expanded in January), not one January release sold more than 20 million tickets.


Top August Movie Releases Tickets Sold

Top August Movie Releases by Tickets Sold

August has seen more success than January with almost 20 movies selling more than 20 million tickets. The key takeaway here is almost all of August’s top movie releases came early in the month. The latest entry to hit big was Inglorious Basterds (8/21/2009).

But, after doing some half-assed research, I found out that January and August aren’t the worst. If we’re going just by estimated tickets sold, October is actually the worst month in terms of top opening weekends…

  • August: Suicide Squad (Warner Brothers) – 15,708,800, 8/5/16
  • February: Deadpool (Fox) – 15,435,300, 2/12/16
  • September: It (Warner Brothers) 13,788,100, 9/8/17
  • January: American Sniper (Warner Brothers) – 10,993,700, 1/16/15
  • October: Scary Movie 3 (Dimension Films) – 7,979,100 10/24/03

And by actual gross…

  • August: Suicide Squad – $133,682,248, 8/5/16
  • February: Deadpool – $132,434,639, 2/12/1
  • September: It – $123,403,419, 9/8/17
  • January: American Sniper – $89,269,066, 1/16/15
  • October: Gravity (Warner Brothers) – $55,785,112, 10/4/13

In fact, January and August have managed to get on the list of biggest box-office grosses of all-time by estimated tickets sold:

Biggest Aggregated Months All Time Box Office by Tickets Sold

Biggest Aggregated Months All Time Box Office by Tickets Sold

January ’82 benefitted from a very long haul for Raiders of the Lost Ark (June 1981 release) and Arthur (July 1981 release). August ’99 was bolstered by sleeper hit The Sixth Sense.

Biggest Aggregated Months All Time Box Office

Biggest Aggregated Months All Time Box Office

How about July, huh? July is a box office beast. If you were to look at biggest months by actual gross (see above), January and August aren’t in the top 20. July occupies 12 of 20 slots! The months other than July? June, March, May, November and December make cameos.

Nowhere to be found: January, February, April, August, September, and October.

In 2016, February just edged out September in box office (with February totaling HALF the number of releases as September, and second fewest of all) thanks to Deadpool.

Monthly Box Office Breakdown 2016

Monthly Box Office Breakdown 2016

So far in 2017, February has surpassed its numbers from the previous year and beat out April on the back of The LEGO Batman Movie WITH ONLY 41 MOVIES RELEASED! No other month has less than 51.

Monthly Box Office Breakdown thru Sept 27 2017

Monthly Box Office Breakdown thru Sept 27 2017

February’s full of hidden gems and sleeper hits. I mean, Deadpool was basically dead in the water until footage from the movie leaked and fans went bananas. The studio saw dollar signs and decided to release Valentine’s Day weekend. A brilliant move that probably pissed off more than a few significant others.

Here are the top February movie releases by estimated tickets sold:

Top February Movie Releases by Tickets Sold

Top February Movie Releases by Tickets Sold

Notice how the top earners steered clear of Super Bowl weekend?

And here are the top February movie releases by actual gross:

Top February Movie Releases by Actual Gross

Top February Movie Releases by Actual Gross

Earlier, I compared Annihilation to Arrival. The Amy Adams vehicle brought in $24 million in its opening weekend and a lifetime gross of $100 million. The mid-November 2016 release date saw competition from Trolls, Hacksaw Ridge, Doctor Strange, Hacksaw Ridge, and Fantastic Beasts.

Here’s what Annihilation will go up against in February 2018…

February 2018 movie releases

February 2018 movie releases

The Cloverfield movie should keep up with its predecessors ($70 – $80 million). Fifty Shades will do its share (~$100 million). Peter Rabbit is being called “an asshole“. Early Man is from the Wallace & Gromit team, but don’t see that translating to big bucks. Black Panther should crush and will probably win the weekend Annihilation opens. War with Grandpa keeps getting moved, so don’t expect that to do any damage. No word yet on Samson or Winchester, but both have intriguing premises.

Annihilation‘s studio, Paramount Pictures, could use a win. Last year, the distributor released 15 films and had the sixth highest box office tally. Arrival was its second biggest earner. Almost nine full months into 2017 and the studio has released eight movies and ranks 7th in box office gross. 2016’s Arrival is actually its ninth biggest take in ’17!

All the biggest grossing Paramount movies in 2017 (except Fences) have been met with heavy crticism (or in mother!‘s case, confusion) and/or negative reviews:

  1. Transformers: The Last Knight – $130,168,683, 6/21/17
  2. Baywatch – $58,060,186, 5/25/17
  3. xXx: The Return of Xander Cage – $44,898,413, 1/20/17
  4. Ghost in the Shell (2017) – $40,563,557, 3/31/17
  5. Monster Trucks – $33,370,166, 1/13/17
  6. Fences – $31,351,933, 12/16/16
  7. Rings – $27,793,018, 2/3/17
  8. mother! – $13,459,798, 9/15/17

Will Annihilation save the day? Initially, I would’ve said a February release date meant “No”, but the relatively soft release schedule could propel it above the $100 million lifetime gross.



  1. I appreciate the level of analysis you put into this, but I did (after the third chart), skip to the end where you made your point. I’m a stats man from way back, but I have to admit that you out-statted me on this one. Cheers 🙂


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