It’s long been accepted that films released in the early winter are generally going to be terrible, banished to the hinterlands of the year where studios know audiences aren’t leaving their house anyway, unless maybe their heater died. And it’s often been assumed that January gets the worst of it, given that month’s usual proliferation of generic demonic possession tales, Wayans-spawned spoofs, and things that no one who wasn’t in the grips of hypothermic delirium would ever see, like I, Frankenstein. But statistically speaking, it turns out February is actually the shittiest of them all. Slate took the Rotten Tomatoes scores of every movie released since 2000 that’s grossed over $1 million, grouped them by the month they debuted, then averaged the scores. And as you can see in the below chart, the February column is stained red and pink with the blood of so many wasted moviegoing hours.
On the whole, February movies scored an average Rotten Tomatoes score of 45, three points below its runner-up January, and 13 points below the winner, July—a month when either movies become uniformly better, or the warm weather encourages critics to just loosen up already. Some other fun things to be gleaned from this chart: Critically speaking, February 2001 was arguably modern cinema’s lowest ebb, a month that saw the release of such films as Saving Silverman, Hannibal, 3000 Miles To Graceland, Sweet November, and—though they have their defenders—Super Troopers and Monkeybone. And 2004 was kind of a terrible year for movies in general, with June and July the only months nearing an “average” rating (no thanks to White Chicks or Catwoman) before everything dropped back into the red. And that, with the possible exception of The Lego Movie—which could join past February anomalies like The Silence Of The Lambs and In Bruges—you now have some statistical support for automatically lowering your expectations whenever a movie gets a February release date.