Determining a Film’s Year of Release

by Jason Pyles

Here is a topic that relatively few people will care about, but like my post on my rating system, I believe it has to be addressed.

I’m sure there’s an official standard for determining a film’s year of release. I just don’t know what that authoritative standard would be — and even if I knew it — I would probably disagree with it.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has its criteria for qualifying a film’s year of release. And it appears as though the Internet Movie Database goes with the film’s first U.S. screening (for U.S. films), where the date of its festival debut determines the year. And if not a festival debut, then perhaps a limited release. And if not a limited or widespread release, then the direct-to-video release date. Whatever.

On Movie Stream Cast — a podcast where I review films currently streaming on Netflix Watch Instantly — I go with the year Netflix has listed, simply to help listeners search for the correct film. And when I host a special podcast episode with a team of critics, such as “The Best Horror Movies of the ‘80s and ‘90s,” then I just ask my team to use the year listed on, next to the film’s title. But these are special cases.

The most important reason (for me) to determine a film’s year of release is for building Top 10 of the Year lists, and just generally comparing the films released in a certain year. For instance, I was compelled to make a decision on this, because on my Horror Movie Podcast site, I want to keep up with the horror releases of 2013, and then give my Top 10 list at the end of this year.

I haven’t counseled with any of my co-hosts on this, because this will be my own personal method for determining the year of release for a film. So, when you hear my Top 10 lists on Movie Podcast Weekly or Horror Movie Podcast, you’ll know that I’ve used the following system outlined below. And by the way, of all the methods I’ve heard about thus far, I think my method also serves the listener best.

After literally thinking about this for four months, here is my simple rule for determining a film’s year of release:

The year of release will be determined by the first date that a film becomes widely available to a U.S. audience.

In other words, I will use the following information, in this order of priority:
1. When the movie receives a widespread theater release in the U.S.
2. When the movie is released on DVD or Blu-ray or both.
3. When the movie becomes available through services like Netflix or Redbox.

This also means that I will completely disregard the following information:
— Film festival screening dates
— Limited theater releases
— Any type of foreign releases, theater or DVD
— Any other system for determining year of release

My reason for this method:
When I review a film, I believe my audience should be able to check it out, if they wish. So, I want the release year to be when U.S. movie-lovers can easily find the film (especially since I’m in an area that doesn’t usually get limited releases, either).


One thought on “Determining a Film’s Year of Release

  1. Wow… what was it you called yourself? A detail-oriented (expletive deleted)? You might just be, except the expletive.

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