What Happened To Memorial Day Weekend Movies?

The cinematic year of 2015 is hardly without its big deal release dates. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has effectively laid claim to the first weekend in May with the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron in the coveted spot. Jurassic World has the precious commodity of mid-June all to itself. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation and Fantastic Four will duke it out over the transition from July to August, and James Bond’s Spectre picks up at the beginning of November — just as the big screen dumping grounds begin to give way to Oscar-caliber material. And, finally, reigning supreme over the lot, is the holiday season: this year, an apt home to the highly anticipated Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. But what about Memorial Day weekend movies?

For most Americans, Memorial Day marks the colloquial beginning of the summer season. The three-day weekend ushers in the first barbecues of the year, the opening of public pools and amusement parks, and the inception of various summer plans that’ll never come to be (ranging from carpentry projects to leisurely road trips). Historically, Memorial Day weekend has been adorned with some pretty big feature film releases: the Star Wars Original Trilogy, the second and third Indiana Jones movies, the first and second Mission: Impossible films, a couple of Rambos and Beverly Hills Cops, and, of course, Encino Man. But that's not the case this year.

Most of the films that’ll be playing in theaters this Memorial Day weekend are holdovers. Avengers and Furious 7 still ride strong from their respective May and April release dates. Last week’s Pitch Perfect 2 maintains formidably, and word of mouth could help the brilliant oddball picture Mad Max: Fury Road expand its reach. The new ventures on the horizon: a Poltergeist remake that nobody seems to be too interested in, and Disney’s Tomorrowland. Have studios lost faith in the power of the Memorial Day movie?

It’s not the first time we’ve seen this sort of fate hit a once cherished release weekend. Think back to your July 4 plans in the 1990s. You were geared up to see Die Hard 2, Terminator 2, Apollo 13, Men in Black, Armageddon, and, of course, Independence Day. This year’s July 4 week gives us Magic Mike XXL — hardly a bummer, though not exactly on the blockbuster caliber of the aforementioned titles — something called Jimmy’s Hall.

As time carries forth, we’ve noticed a number of changes being implemented in regard to our summer movie season. The big pictures come earlier now — thanks to Marvel, early May is a newly valued entity — and later as well — while August used to be a “winding down month,” in 2014, Disney chose it for placement of its tremendous success story, Guardians of the Galaxy. Perhaps, as the season itself expands, the “big dates” therein are no longer such precious cargo. June and July have new company, and, as such, aren’t quite as reliant on their own event weekends.

And this sort of expansion looks to carry forth. Blockbusters are already taking way in April (look at Furious 7, the fourth highest worldwide grosser of all time, or last year’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier). Next year, we'll see March play home to Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, and November open up to the Marvel movie Doctor Strange. Pretty soon, we might see nary a month go by without a gigantic studio picture. Good news for the dumping ground months of January and September, but perhaps not for the smaller films that rely on these lighter realms for audience attention. Although I suppose they could always take shelter in the freshly abandoned Memorial Day and July 4 weekends...

Images: Disney; Warner Bros (2)