Why Are Superhero Movies Released in May? There's Math Involved...

The summer superhero movie phenomenon can be explained with math. Yes, we’re using math.

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Why Are Superhero Movies Released in May? There's Math Involved...
We answer an age old question. Kinda.

20th June 1975, a date that will live in infamy, when a dorsal finned, serrated teethed great white raked in USD260 million in U.S. ticket sales (USD1.184 billion or RM4.776 billion today with inflation), at the box office. Steven Spielberg’s Jaws was an unprecedented box office success at the time because movies released in the summer months were traditionally B-grade movies that weren’t supposed to be hits. Two years later in 1977, Star Wars' release in May all but sealed the deal for Hollywood. Summer was now the golden season for releasing movies.

The summer months in America are traditionally June, July, and August while summer vacation dates vary according to the location of school districts in America – generally early June to September or late May to late August. So why May? Do movies released in May actually earn more? To answer this question, we collated the worldwide box-office figures of each of the movies with revenue provided by and relied on Metacritic's scores to make sure there is no correlation between review scores and how many tickets a movie can sell. 

Here’s a list of Marvel Comics movies released in the month of May versus other months, starting from Phase One of the Marvel Cinematic Universe:

Marvel movies from 2008 to 2015 compared based on months. | Image: Rojak Daily

You could argue that the movies consistently being released in May were the studio’s best efforts but the aggregated median scores of its movies on Metacritic shows that critics found them to collectively be equally entertaining. The reviews of the movies are not grossly skewed to favour only movies in May, yet the figures show that box office sales are higher in May.

Now let's compare these figures with the Dark Knight Rises, the highest grossing Warner Brother's comic-book movie to date. It followed the Jaws example and bet big on the June release window instead. The results are telling:

Though a hit with critics, Marvel's The Avengers beats out The Dark Knight Rises in revenues. | Image: Rojak Daily

The Dark Knight Rises was a hit with critics and fans alike but failed to capture as much moolah as Marvel's The Avengers. Finally, let’s look at the studio that first put superhero movies on the map:

The results don't lie, total revenues are still higher in May despite the other movies' critical success. | Image: Rojak Daily

The formula works even for 20th Century Fox and its X-Men movies. Earnings are still higher in May despite movies  scoring lower with critics 

Movies released in May always earn more

Numbers don’t lie. If you want to release a superhero movie – even a terrible one – do it in May. Exceptions to the rule include Deadpool that was released in February 2016 and grossed more domestically than X-Men: Days of Future Past which was released in May 2014 (X-Men: DoFP has a higher Metacritic score by the way). Do you have a better reason why movies are released in May? Or do you think that it's cosmic random-ness with no consequence. Let us know in the comments. 

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