"It's typical to see a massive onslaught in October, which represents an opportunity for films to get noticed by moviegoers and Oscar before the big blockbuster holiday season," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations.
Nearly a dozen movies will debut Friday, though only six can be seen nationwide: the gangster tale "Knockaround Guys"; the hip-hop romance "Brown Sugar"; "The Rules of Attraction," about disturbed college love affairs; the action thriller "The Transporter"; the family fantasy "Tuck Everlasting"; and "White Oleander," about a conniving mother convicted of murder.
A few hundred theaters will see the opening of the animated "Pokemon 4Ever," Madonna's desert-island "Swept Away," and the haunted submarine thriller "Below."
Limited to a handful of theaters is Jerry Seinfeld's documentary "Comedian"; the surreal love story "Punch-Drunk Love," starring Adam Sandler; Michael Moore's anti-gun documentary "Bowling For Columbine"; and Ed Burns' "Ash Wednesday," about two Irish-American brothers who tangle with the mob.
Starting films small in a few large cities can help build word-of-mouth for later widespread distribution.
Last October featured a similar glut of new movies, with between nine and 16 new films opening on various weekends, Dergarabedian said.
"But sometimes October is also a dumping ground for films that just couldn't make it at any other time," he said.
"Knockaround Guys," which stars Barry Pepper and Vin Diesel, has been finished for 2½ years. "The Transporter" was shifted to its current release date from Sept. 13.
The remaining weekends of October are similarly crowded with small-release films, including "The Grey Zone," about Jewish workers in a Nazi crematorium; "Auto Focus," about the sex tapes and murder of "Hogan's Heroes" star Bob Crane; and "Frida," starring Salma Hayek as Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.
Other factors that make October a prime release time: its proximity to September's Toronto Film Festival, the fact that college-age art-house filmgoers have settled into the new school year, and distance from this year's holiday-season debuts of "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" and "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers."
"We were concerned about getting lost if we went ahead too close to the end of the year," said Tom Ortenberg, head of Lions Gate Films, which this month releases "The Grey Zone" and "The Rules of Attraction," while widening its release of "Secretary," a love story involving sadomasochism.
By Anthony Breznican