I first noticed it back in 1999. While working as a film critic during what became an extraordinary year for movies, there was one month in which everything started to suck. Movies like The Thomas Crown Affair, Teaching Mrs. Tingle, Brokedown Palace, Outside Providence, Mickey Blue Eyes, In Too Deep, The Astronaut's Wife, A Dog of Flanders and Chill Factor appeared one after another, leading a colleague and myself to brand the phenomenon as the "August Dumping Ground."
Indeed, this name has proven apt: Movies that open in August are the ones that studios don't really know what to do with. Sometimes they've been shelved for a couple of years and the studios simply shuttle them out as a kind of house cleaning. Last year we had John Dahl's dud war movie The Great Raid and Terry Gilliam's The Brothers Grimm, in which it was obvious (to put it lightly) that Gilliam did not receive final cut. Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo also graced American screens during this period. In 2004, Spike Lee's awful She Hate Me and the butchered, Renny Harlin version of Exorcist: The Beginning opened. 2003 gave us the infamous Gigli.
But studios don't always know what they're doing. The most famous recent example came in 2004 when Miramax released the two year-old martial arts classic Hero in August, convinced that they had a flop on their hands -- a Crouching Tiger retread. It made a fortune, placed on several critics' ten best lists (including mine) and has now eclipsed Crouching Tiger as a pinnacle of the genre.