Box Office: Why Summer Starts in April Now

"Rio 2"

Tentpole season is beginning April 4 with "Captain America: The Winter Soldier."

This story first appeared in the Feb. 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Movie stars might hate global warming, but Hollywood studios are moving closer to extending summer year-round. Tentpole season will begin April 4, a month earlier than usual, with Disney/Marvel's Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

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A week later, Fox debuts the animated sequel Rio 2, followed April 18 by Warner Bros.' Transcendence, a big-budget sci-fi epic starring Johnny Depp. Theater owners for years have asked studios to program bigger movies throughout the calendar, but some months are viewed as undesirable wastelands, including September, January -- and April. But with summer becoming more crowded (2013's warm-weather glut of family films was blamed for underperformers like Turbo), studios have no choice. And there is growing evidence that event pics can prosper outside the traditional summer and holiday seasons.

Fast Five opened in late April 2011 and reignited that franchise. Gravity became a sensation after launching Oct. 4, grossing nearly $700 million to date. And Warners got a summerlike $69.1 million opening for The Lego Movie on a nonholiday weekend in February. "We've had great success in March with Oz the Great and Powerful and Alice in Wonderland," says Disney distribution chief Dave Hollis of the rationale to bow Winter Soldier in April. "There's less competition in play and a lot more room to hold."