This Day in Movie History: December 31

As you could probably imagine, not many movies open on New Year’s Eve so I’ll use today – December 31 – in Movie History to briefly discuss something happening right now.

2013 will turn out to be Hollywood’s biggest year yet, by just a hair. When all is said and done, box office receipts for the year should come in at approximately $10.9 billion, edging out 2012’s $10.8 billion. Per usual, the top grossing features of the year were filled with sequels (Iron Man 3, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Fast and Furious 6) and animated titles and sequels (Despicable Me 2, Monsters University, Frozen), and remakes and reboots of franchises (Man of Steel, Oz the Great and Powerful). The only truly original title in the top ten is Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, which could win Best Picture at the Oscars (though 12 Years a Slave may have something to say about that).

It’ll be interesting to see if 2014 can top 2013. When you look over the list of big pics coming out next year, it seems as if it may not but you never know. One early prediction: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part I (out in November) is a strong contender for highest grosser next year.

As for birthdays, Anthony Hopkins is 76 today. The actor broke through in a huge way to American audiences in 1991 with his Oscar winning performance as Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs. Hopkins would reprise the role twice more in 2001’s Hannibal and 2002’s Red Dragon. He’s also played more real-life people than practically anyone – from C.S. Lewis in Shadowlands to Dr. Kellogg in The Road to Wellville to Richard Nixon in Oliver Stone’s Nixon to Pablo Picasso in Surviving Picasso to John Quincy Adams in Amistad to Alfred Hitchcock in Hitchcock last year. Hopkins was also a favorite of the Merchant/Ivory team with acclaimed performances in Howards End and The Remains of the Day. Other notables roles: Magic, The Elephant Man, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Legends of the Fall, The Edge, The Mask of Zorro, Meet Joe Black, Mission Impossible II, The Human Stain, The Wolfman, and Thor and its sequel.

Val Kilmer is 54 on this New Year’s Eve. He’s played a few real-life people as well, most notably as Jim Morrison in Oliver Stone’s The Doors. There’s also his bit role as Elvis Presley in True Romance and porn star John Holmes in Wonderland. Then there’s his amazing performance as Doc Holliday in Tombstone. I’m still mad he didn’t get a Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for that movie. There’s also Top Gun and his turn as the Caped Crusader in Batman Forever. Other notables: Top Secret!, Real Genius, Willow, Thundeheart, The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Ghost and the Darkness, The Saint, Spartan, Deja Vu, and MacGruber. A personal favorite of mine: his wickedly funny comedic turn in 2005’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang alongside Robert Downey, Jr.

As for Six Degrees of Separation between the birthday boys, it’s an easy one:

Hopkins and Kilmer were both in Oliver Stone’s Alexander

And that’s today – New Year’s Eve – in Movie History! This will be my last blog post of 2013, my friends, and I appreciate your readership so much. See you in 2014 and have a safe New Year’s!

Box Office Predictions: January 3-5

The new year at the box office will be rung in with a pretty sturdy horror franchise in the form of Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, opening Friday. Unless it greatly doesn’t match expectations, the fifth entry in the series should open atop the charts with the rest being filled by holiday leftovers. You can find my detailed prediction post on The Marked Ones here:

Christmas holdovers usually fall in the 30s to low 40s during the first weekend of the next year and I expect we’ll see that occur here. My predictions reflect Disney’s Frozen having one of the lower declines which should allow it to remain at #2 while The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug should end its three-week reign at number one and fall to third. I expect American Hustle and Anchorman 2 to round out the top five. This means Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street should drop out of the top five in its second weekend. While it had a healthy debut (grossing $34 million over five days), audiences were polarized by it, evidenced by its weak C Cinemascore average.

And with that, my predictions for the top six at the box office during weekend #1 of 2014:

1. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

Predicted Gross: $26.8 million

2. Frozen

Predicted Gross: $19 million (representing a drop of 33%)

3. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Predicted Gross: $16.2 million (representing a drop of 44%)

4. American Hustle

Predicted Gross: $13.1 million (representing a drop of 33%)

5. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

Predicted Gross: $12.5 million (representing a drop of 38%)

6. The Wolf of Wall Street

Predicted Gross: $11 million (representing a drop of 41%)

This would be a great time to remind you of the website – where you can make your own predictions on the opening weekends of new box office entries. This week would be a fantastic time to start (only takes a sec to set up profile) because the competition begins anew with 2014 rolling in. On the site, you can compete against me and see if you can make box office predictions better than yours truly.

And there you have it! Check by Saturday for early updates on the blog’s Facebook page and Sunday with final results!

This Day in Movie History: December 30

So this might be more of a This Day in Television History, but not really. 60 years ago today is when the first color TV sets went on sale to the American public. This is a historically significant event in Movie History for many reasons. It changed the way moviegoers experienced the world of film. In fact, the advent of TV’s in the homes of Americans made films such as The Wizard of Oz and It’s a Wonderful Life the classics that they now are. TV continues to change the way the film industry operates with a prime recent example being the blossoming of Netflix.

As for birthdays, Fred Ward is 71 today. Mr. Ward is one of those instantly recognizable faces you may not know by name, but has had extensive character actor work over the last few decades. He’s appeared in two of Robert Altman’s most celebrated works, The Player and Short Cuts and turned up in films including Escape from Alcatraz, The Right Stuff, Miami Blues, Tremors, Road Trip, Sweet Home Alabama, and 2 Guns.

Tyrese Gibson is 35 today. First known as an R&B singer, Mr. Gibson has made a smooth transition into film. His first significant role was as the lead in John Singleton’s underrated 2001 drama Baby Boy. Since then he’s gotten himself into two huge film franchises, The Fast and Furious and Transformers. Other notable roles: Four Brothers and, most recently, Black Nativity.

As for Six Degrees of Separation between the two:

Fred Ward in 2 Guns with Mark Wahlberg

Mark Wahlberg was in Four Brothers with Tyrese Gibson

And that’s today – December 30 – in Movie History!

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones Box Office Prediction

The 2014 box office season kicks off with just one new release, but it’s a high-profile one. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is a spinoff of the popular found footage horror franchise that began in 2009. This is the fifth entry in the series, though it’s being described as a “cousin” and not a direct sequel to what came before (um, OK). To further prove its a spin-off, Paranormal Activity 5 will arrive in theaters on October 24, 2014.

The Marked Ones has a few things going for it: it’s been marketed heavily with the studio especially going after Hispanic audiences in its campaign. It’s a strategy that could certainly pay off. Additionally, there’s been no successful horror pic in nearly three months since Insidious Chapter 2 (the Carrie remake faltered).

However, there’s also the fact that Paranormal Activity 4 was a bit of a disappointment commercially. The second Activity earned $40.6 million in its first weekend and the third hit the high point with $52.5 million out of the gate. #4 took in $29 million in its debut, noticeably less than its predecessors.

There are numerous scenarios I could see with The Marked Ones:

1) It could over perform and open in the range of 2013’s two most successful horror pics – The Conjuring and its $41.9M opening and Insidious Chapter 2 with its $40.3M debut.

2) It could perform right in line with PA4 in the high 20s or low 30s.

3) It could perform right in line with 2013’s Texas Chainsaw 3D, which opened during the same weekend with $21.7 million.

So, of course, I’m not really going with any of those scenarios. I’m predicting The Marked Ones will earn just a bit less than the franchise’s fourth entry, however a higher gross than my prediction seems more feasible than anything lower.

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones opening weekend prediction: $26.8 million

This Day in Movie History: December 29

Eighteen years ago on This Day in Movie History – December 29 – brought a trio of pictures opening for Oscar qualifying runs. While none of them were nominated for Best Picture, they all found varying degrees of success with their actors being nominated for awards.

First up, Terry Gilliam’s sci-fi pic 12 Monkeys starring Bruce Willis, Madeline Stowe, and Brad Pitt. It earned Oscar nominations for Mr. Pitt for Supporting Actor (his first nomination) and Costume Design. Pitt would lose in the category to Kevin Spacey for The Usual Suspects, but he did win the Golden Globe.

Next is Dead Man Walking, the capital punishment drama from director Tim Robbins starring Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon. It would earn nominations for Director, Actor, Actress, and Original Song with a title track from Bruce Springsteen. Only Sarandon was victorious while Penn would lose to Nicolas Cage for Leaving Las Vegas.

Finally, Mr. Holland’s Opus with its Oscar nominated performance from Richard Dreyfuss in this drama spanning the life of a music teacher. Dreyfuss’s work was the only Academy nomination, but the pic turned into an unexpected box office hit with an $82 million domestic haul.

As for birthdays today, Jude Law is 41. Mr. Law has worked with some of the greatest directors alive from Scorsese (The Aviator) to Spielberg (A.I.: Artificial Intelligence) to Eastwood (Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil) to Nichols (Closer). Other notable roles include Gattaca, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Road to Perdition, Cold Mountain, Side Effects, and his work as Watson alongside Robert Downey Jr. in the two Sherlock Holmes flicks.

Danny McBride is 37 today and he’s one of the most recognizable faces in comedy over the past few years with roles in Pineapple Express, Tropic Thunder, Up in the Air, 30 Minutes or Less, Your Highness, and This is The End. There’s also his starring role in the HBO cult hit “Eastbound&Down”.

As for Six Degrees of Separation between the birthday performers:

Jude Law was in Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr.

Robert Downey Jr. was in Tropic Thunder with Danny McBride

And that’s today – December 29 – in Movie History!

Box Office Results: Christmas 2013 Weekend

There was a whole bunch of new movies that opened Christmas Day, but numbers 1-4 were occupied by holdovers. The Wolf of Wall Street was the top newcomer while The Secret Life of Walter Mitty had a just OK opening and 47 Ronin, Grudge Match, and Justin Bieber’s Believe disappointed.

For the third weekend in a row, it was The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug at the top spot with $29.8 million – above my $25.7M estimate. The middle chapter in Peter Jackson’s Tolkien trilogy has earned $190 million in its three weeks of release so far.

Disney’s Frozen was close behind with $28.8 million, surpassing my $22.1M projection. The animated feature has grossed an impressive $248 million so far and should go north of $300 million when all is said and done.

Ron Burgundy and company were third with Anchorman: The Legend Continues earning $20.1 million in weekend #2, right in line with my $19.6M estimate. Anchorman has made $83.6 million so far, nearly matching the entire domestic gross of the original.

David O. Russell’s awards contender American Hustle was fourth with $19.5 million – beyond my $14.9M projection. Hustle has grossed $60 million in two weeks and is very likely to cross the century mark at some point.

It was Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street taking honors as top newbie. The three hour sex and drugs fest with Leo DiCaprio made $18.5 million over the Friday-to-Sunday portion of the weekend and $34.3 million since its Wednesday debut. While this is below my respective estimates of $25.4M and $44.2M, this is still a solid opening. Where Wolf could soon falter is with its C Cinemascore average. Audiences are clearly not liking what they’re seeing and there could be rather substantial drop-offs in future weekends.

Saving Mr. Banks with Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks had a big jump in its second weekend with $14 million for sixth, above my $10.6M estimate. It’s earned $37.8M in two weeks.

Ben Stiller’s comedic drama The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was seventh with $13 million over Friday-to-Sunday and $25.5 million since the Wednesday start, outpacing my projections of $11.7M and $19.3M. This opening could best be described as middle of the pack and it’ll be interesting to see how it holds up over the next couple of weekends.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was eighth with $10.2 million, above my $7.7M projection. Fire has made $391 million since its November opening, currently sits at #18 for all-time domestic grossers, and still looks to top Iron Man 3 as 2013’s biggest hit.

The martial arts flick with Keanu Reeves 47 Ronin opened at ninth with $9.8 million over Friday-to-Sunday and $20.5 million since Wednesday. It earned under my predicted three-day estimated (I said $11.4M) but over my five-day estimate ($17.8M). Look for it to fade fast.

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas rounded out the Top Ten with $7.4 million (I didn’t predict it would be in the top ten).

This left the Sylvester Stallone/Robert De Niro comedy Grudge Match at #11 with a very poor opening well below my expectations. Match grossed $7.3 million from Friday-to-Sunday and $13.4 million since Wednesday. I thought it would do much better and predicted $13.9M for the three-day and $24.5M for the five-day. Oops. This is Stallone’s third bomb of the year after Bullet to the Head and Escape Plan.

Finally, Beliebers totally failed to turn out for his documentary Believe. It sputtered at #14 with $2 million from Friday-to-Sunday and $4.2 million since the Wednesday start. I predicted it would do $5.8M for the three-day and $10.3 million for the five. Oops again.

Whew. And there’s your Christmas weekend box office results! Be sure to check the blog later today for my prediction next weekend’s only newcomer, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones.

This Day in Movie History: December 28

Twelve years ago today in Movie History was the release of Black Hawk Down for its Oscar qualifying run. Ridley Scott’s true life tale of the Battle of Mogadishu starred Josh Hartnett, Eric Bana, Tom Sizemore, Sam Shephard, and Ewan McGregor. It won Academy Awards for Sound and Editing and Scott was nominated for his direction, while the film itself did not receive a nod. Down was a box office success with $108 million domestic, providing Scott with his third $100M+ grosser in less than two years with Gladiator and Hannibal having been released prior.

As for birthdays, Denzel Washington is 59 today. He is an Oscar winner for 2001’s Training Day in the lead category and won Supporting Actor in 1989 for Glory. Other Academy Award nominations: Cry Freedom, Malcolm X, The Hurricane, and Flight. Beyond his nominated performances, he’s been one of the most consistent actors over the past 25 years with box office hits that include Philadelphia, The Pelican Brief, Crimson Tide, Remember the Titans, American Gangster, and Unstoppable.

He may only be known for cameos in films, but you could certainly argue that no one has been more important in the world of film over the past decade as Stan Lee. He turns 91 today. Lee is the creator of many comic books that have been adapted into hugely grossing Marvel adaptations, including Spider-Man, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, X-Men, Iron Man, Thor, The Avengers, Captain America, and Daredevil. He has had cameos in nearly 20 of those pictures based on his works.

As for Six Degrees of Separation between the two birthdays boys:

Denzel Washington was in Inside Man with Willem Dafoe

Willem Dafoe was in Spider-Man with Stan Lee

And that’s today – December 28 – in Movie History!

This Day in Movie History: December 27

This Day in Movie History – December 27 – brings us another trio of pictures that opened attempting to make their Oscar qualifying runs.

13 years ago brought Traffic, Steven Soderbegh’s epic pic which explored the war on drugs from various different angles with multiple storylines. With an all-star cast featuring Michael Douglas, Benicio del Toro, Don Cheadle, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Don Cheadle, Traffic won Oscars for its Direction, Supporting Actor (del Toro), and Adapted Screenplay. It would lose Best Picture to Ridley Scott’s Gladiator. It was a massive box office success earning $124 million domestically. **Blogger’s note: a few scenes of Traffic were filmed in my town of Columbus, Ohio and I got to witness part of it being filmed at the Ohio Statehouse. I saw Michael Douglas descend the steps of the Statehouse (it’s early in the movie) and I even got to chat briefly with Mr. Soderbergh, who was wearing an Ohio State ball cap (Go Bucks!).

22 years ago today saw the release of Fried Green Tomatoes, Jon Avnet’s Depression era comedic drama. It combined the Best Actress winner from two years prior, Jessica Tandy, with the Best Actress winner from the previous year, Kathy Bates. The pic resonated with audiences with an $82 million domestic box office tally but received Oscar nods only for Tandy in Supporting Actress and Adapted Screenplay, winning neither.

Milos Forman’s The People vs. Larry Flynt opened 17 years ago today. The biopic of Hustler magazine founder Larry Flynt cast Woody Harrelson in the title role with Courtney Love and Edward Norton in supporting roles. Flynt failed to resonate with moviegoers earning just $20 million. It did manage to pick up Oscar nominations (but no wins) for Forman and Harrelson.

As for actors with birthdays today, John Amos turns 74. You may know the veteran actor best for TV work from “Good Times” to “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” to “The West Wing” to the miniseries Roots. He’s had his share of notable film roles as well, including Coming to America, Die Hard 2, and Madea’s Witness Protection.

Actress Theresa Randle is 49 today. She’s appeared in many high-profile pics over the past coupe of decades from the two Bad Boys flicks to Sugar Hill to Beverly Hills Cop III to her starring role in Spike Lee’s Girl 6.

As for Six Degrees of Separation between the two birthdays performers:

John Amos was in Coming to America with Eddie Murphy

Eddie Murphy was in Beverly Hills Cop III with Theresa Randle

And that’s today in Movie History!

This Day in Movie History: December 26

On this day after Christmas in Movie History, it is time to introduce you to the term “qualifying run” if you aren’t already familiar with it. Qualifying run means when a studio releases a picture between December 26 and December 31 and there’s only one reason to do it: so that the picture is eligible for Oscar consideration. This will likely be the case with most movies featured on This Day in Movie History for the remainder of the year. These releases typically aren’t released wide until January or sometimes February of the following year.

Such is the case with Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood, which came out six years ago today. Daniel Day-Lewis earned his second Best Actor Oscar for the pic (with another to follow five years later for Lincoln), but it lost in the Picture and Director race to No Country for Old Men and the Coen Brothers.

Twelve years ago today was the release of Robert Altman’s comic murder mystery Gosford Park, which opened to critical raves and a surprising $40 million domestic take. It also was the final Best Director nomination for Altman and earned Supporting Actress nominations for Maggie Smith and Helen Mirren.

As for birthdays on this day, Jared Leto is 42. He is currently the frontrunner for Supporting Actor for his work in Dallas Buyer’s Club. Known more to many in the younger generation as the lead singer of Thirty Seconds to Mars, Leto is also known for past roles in Requiem for a Dream and Panic Room.

Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich is 50 today. His resume in film certainly isn’t extensive, but he did appear in this year’s Metallica Through the Never and had a humorous supporting role as himself in 2010’s Get Him to Greek.

As for Six Degrees of Separation between these two gentlemen:

Jared Leto was in Dallas Buyer’s Club with Matthew McConaughey

Matthew McConaughey was in The Wolf of Wall Street with Jonah Hill

Jonah Hill was in Get Him to the Greek with Lars Ulrich

And there’s today – December 26 – in Movie History!

This Day in Movie History: December 25

It’s a very special day in our collective history, blog readers, as we celebrate the holiday season today and get to spend time with our loved ones and count our blessings.

Today – December 25 – in Movie History gives us the 20th anniversary of Grumpy Old Men, which turned into an unexpected comedy hit for Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, a full 25 years following their landmark laugher The Odd Couple. It earned $70 million domestically following its Christmas 1993 debut.

23 years ago in 1990 brought the long gestating sequel The Godfather Part III, Francis Ford Coppola’s third and final chapter of the series. Released 16 years after part II, Part III had its share of negative critical reaction, especially for the performance of Sofia Coppola as Michael Corleone’s (Al Pacino) daughter. It still managed to nab a Best Picture nomination and gross a strong $66 million domestically. And Sofia moved onto an acclaimed career as a director, with quality material like The Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation to her credit.

And five years ago today was Marley & Me, the tearjerker dog flick with Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston that set the Christmas Day opening record at the time on its way to a terrific $143 million domestic tally. Based on the bestselling memoir by John Grogan, Marley touched a nerve with pet lovers all across the country and was the breakout hit of that year’s holiday time frame.

As for celebrity birthdays, one of the most iconic actors of all time Humphrey Bogart would be 114 years old today. His contribution to cinema is immeasurable with classics such as Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, The African Queen, and The Treasure of Sierra Madre, to name just some.

And its Sissy Spacek’s 64th birthday today. She’s had one of the most impressive filmographies of any actress, from playing the title character in 1976’s Carrie, to an Oscar win as Loretta Lynn in 1980’s Coal Miner’s Daughter, and Oscar nominated turns in Missing (1982), The River (1984), Crimes of the Heart (1986), and In the Bedroom (2001). Recently she’s been seen in Get Low and The Help.

As for Six Degrees of Separation between the two performers:

Humphrey Bogart was in The African Queen with Katherine Hepburn

Katherine Hepburn was in Love Affair with Annette Bening

Annette Bening was in The Great Outdoors with John Candy

John Candy was in JFK with Sissy Spacek

And there you have Christmas in Movie History! Once again, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas.