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The dog days of summer bring out movies that are dogs

Published: Thursday, Aug. 21 2014 4:15 p.m. MDT

Updated: Friday, Aug. 22 2014 4:46 p.m. MDT

Noel Fisher as Michelangelo, one of the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" in a new reboot that became an unusual hit for August.

Paramount Pictures

The common expression “dog days” refers, of course, to the hottest days of summer, generally July and August. And for moviegoers, August also represents the nadir of Hollywood’s output each year.

Summer is one of the two most lucrative moviegoing seasons of each year, the other being the Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays. Which is why you never see two potential blockbusters of the same ilk open on the same day. The studios sometimes jostle for opening dates right up to the last minute.

True, come August there are still a lot of films from the big summer push that are hanging around for anyone who didn’t rush out to see them on opening weekend.

But new titles? Not from the majors.

Oh, there are a few art-house pictures that drop in, often after playing for a couple of weeks in bigger cities, such as “Magic in the Moonlight,” “Calvary,” etc.

And once in a while we’re surprised by something like “The Hundred-Foot Journey,” which, despite its art-house trappings, opened on 2,023 screens across the country on Aug. 8. Most unexpected.

But generally, August openings are those in which the major studios have lost faith. Their reasoning? Families are more likely to be cramming in one last quick vacation before school starts and fall arrives, making August movies, to use the title of one, expendable. And once in school, teenagers — the most pursued audience — are less likely to go to the movies.

So if “The Expendables 3” and “Into the Storm” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and “Step Up: All In” and “The Giver” and “Let’s Be Cops” and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” and “If I Stay” and “The November Man” and “As Above, So Below” and any others that open this month wind up disappointing you — hey, they opened in August. What did you expect?

Before someone points out that “Guardians of the Galaxy” opened on Aug. 1 and was a big hit, let’s remember that Aug. 1 was a Friday that came at the end of the last week in July. Doesn’t count.

And before “Saints and Soldiers” fans complain that I’m suggesting the second sequel, “The Void,” is part of the August heap, that’s a locally produced movie that opened in what is considered a slow period for Hollywood releases, which may have been a strategic move.

And before someone points out that “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” was a hit and opened on Aug. 8 … well, I have no idea what that’s about. No one in Hollywood was predicting a $65 million opening in August for that film. Can you say anomaly?

Only 28 August releases over the past three decades have landed in the top 20 for their respective years.

And over the past 30 years, only eight movies have landed in the top 10 after opening in August, and none of them opened later than Aug. 7.

If “TMNT” were to work its way into the top 10 at the end of this year, it would be the first film to do so in at least three decades. Movies that open after the first week of August just don’t rise that high. Ever.

And movies since 1984 that opened in August and wound up among the year’s top five biggest hits? Only three: “The Fugitive,” which came in at No. 3 in 1993; “The Sixth Sense,” No. 2 in 1999; and “Rush Hour 2,” No. 5 in 2001.

August openings — especially late August openings — just don’t do that well. And movies that are thought of by the studios as possible hits never open in August after the first week.

So here we are. For the rest of the month, you pay your money, you take your chances.

TV’s looking better and better.

Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." He also writes at www.hicksflicks.com and can be contacted at hicks@deseretnews.com.

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