This Day in Movie History: January 31

17 years ago Today in Movie History – January 31 – the rerelease of Star Wars twenty years after its initial run shocked box office watchers with an astonishing $35.9 million opening. Its domestic total would reach $138 million to bring its total to $460 million overall. The original trilogy would all have special editions in the spring of 1997 and would occupy the #1 slot for six out of seven weeks.

As for birthdays, Kerry Washington is 37 today. She may be best known as the lead on the hit ABC drama “Scandal” but she captured moviegoers attention in 2012 as Jamie Foxx’s love interest in Django Unchained. Other notables film appearances include another go-round with Foxx in Ray, Fantastic Four and its sequel, and The Last King of Scotland.

Justin Timberlake is 33 today. Obviously, he’s known most as the current King of Pop, but he’s has some successes with his film career. This includes playing Napster founder Sean Parker in The Social Network and comedies Bad Teacher and Friends with Benefits. Other notable pictures include Black Snake Moan, In Time, and Inside Llewyn Davis.

As for Six Degrees of Separation between Ms. Washington and Mr. Timberlake:

Kerry Washington was in Django Unchained with Jamie Foxx

Jamie Foxx was in Any Given Sunday with Cameron Diaz

Cameron Diaz was in Bad Teacher with Justin Timberlake

And that’s today – January 31 – in Movie History!

This Day in Movie History: January 30

Five years ago Today in Movie History – January 30 – Taken became a surprise box office smash in the U.S. with a terrific $24.7 million opening weekend on its way to a $145 million domestic gross. Building from its very effective trailer, Taken transitioned star Liam Neeson to a legitimate action hero. A sequel would follow in 2012 and a third is already in the planning stages.

As for birthdays, Gene Hackman is 84 today. He’s been nominated for five Academy Awards and won two – for Best Actor in 1971 for The French Connection and Supporting Actor in 1992 for Unforgiven. The other nominations: Bonnie & Clyde, I Never Sang for My Father, and Mississippi Burning. Mr. Hackman appeared in many notable pictures throughout his storied career before his retirement from acting in 2004. They include Downhill Racer, The Poseidon Adventure, The Conversation, Young Frankenstein, as Lex Luthor in the Superman franchise, Reds, Under Fire, Hoosiers, No Way Out, The Firm, Crimson Tide, Get Shorty, The Birdcage, Enemy of the State, and The Royal Tenenbaums.

Christian Bale is 40 today. Of course, he’s best known as the Caped Crusader/Bruce Wayne in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. He got his start as a teenager headlining Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun. His recent work with director David O. Russell resulted in a Supporting Actor Oscar win for The Fighter and a nomination for Best Actor just last week for American Hustle. And there’s his now iconic role in the 2000 cult classic American Psycho. Other noteworthy films: Shaft, The Machinist, The Prestige, 3:10 to Yuma, Terminator Salvation, Public Enemies, and Out of the Furnace.

As for Six Degrees of Separation between these two fantastic actors:

Gene Hackman was in Unforgiven with Morgan Freeman

Morgan Freeman was in Batman Begins with Christian Bale

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

This Day in Movie History: January 29

15 years ago Today in Movie History – January 29 – She’s All That surprised box office prognosticators with a big #1 opening at $16 million on its way to a $56 million domestic haul. Starring Freddie Prinze Jr. and Rachel Leigh Cook, the pic seemingly came out of nowhere but expertly appealed to its target audience and reaped the benefits. Costars included music stars Usher and Lil Kim, as well as Anna Paquin, Gabrielle Union, and the late Paul Walker.

As for birthdays, Oprah Winfrey is 60 today. Most of her fame comes from outside the silver screen, including having the most popular daytime talk show in history, starting her own network, and becoming a billionaire. However, she first rose to fame in Steven Spielberg’s commercial and critical hit drama The Color Purple, for which she earned a Supporting Actress Oscar nomination. Shortly after, her show would start and she wouldn’t venture into film for 13 years with Jonathan Demme’s commercially disappointing Beloved in 1998. It would be 15 more years for another Oprah appearance and her role as Forest Whitaker’s wife in last year’s Lee Daniels’ The Butler got her back into blockbuster territory. Many expected her to receive an Oscar nomination for her work in Butler, but it didn’t happen.

Heather Graham is 44 today. She first broke through in Gus Van Sant’s 1989 critical favorite Drugstore Cowboy. In 1997, she had a memorable role as “Roller Girl” in Boogie Nights and she’d go on to work with Mike Myers in his sequel Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. Further box office success would follow years later with The Hangover. Other notable films: Scream 2, Two Girls and a Guy, Bowfinger, From Hell, and Anger Management.

As for Six Degrees of Separation between the actresses:

Oprah Winfrey was in The Color Purple with Whoopi Goldberg

Whoopi Goldberg was in Soapdish with Robert Downey Jr.

Robert Downey Jr. was in Two Girls and a Guy with Heather Graham

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

This Day in Movie History: January 28

Nine years ago Today in Movie History – January 28 – the horror thriller Hide and Seek topped the box office with a robust $21.9 million opening weekend. Starring Robert De Niro, Dakota Fanning, and Famke Janssen, Seek capped off a nice run for Mr. De Niro in late 2004/early 2005. Just weeks before, his sequel Meet the Fockers was #1 for three weeks. Hide and Seek received a critical drubbing with only 13% on Rotten Tomatoes yet it managed a $51 million domestic gross.

As for birthdays, veteran TV and film actor Alan Alda in 78 today. Known to many as Hawkeye from TV’s “MASH” and Senator Vinick from “The West Wing”, Alda has had a nice filmography as well. A favorite of Woody Allen, the actor appeared in his pictures Crimes and Misdemeanors, Manhattan Murder Mystery, and Everyone Says I Love You. Alda received an Oscar nomination in 2004 for his work in Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator. Other notable recent movies include What Women Want and Tower Heist.

Elijah Wood is 33 today. Starting out as a child actor, Wood appeared in Radio Flyer, Forever Young, The Adventures of Huck Finn, The Good Son, and Flipper. He was cast as Frodo Baggins in Peter Jackson’s wildly successful Lord of the Rings franchise. Other notables pictures: The Ice Storm, Deep Impact, The Faculty, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Sin City.

As for Six Degrees of Separation between them:

Alan Alda was in What Women Want with Mel Gibson

Mel Gibson was in Forever Young with Elijah Wood

And that’s today – January 28th in Movie History!

This Day in Movie History: January 27

Eight years ago Today in Movie History – as if you didn’t know – Martin Lawrence returned in Big Momma’s House 2, which easily topped the box office chart with a $27.7 million premiere. The sequel would end up with $70M domestic. It did not reach the heights of its 2000 predecessor which took in $117 million, but that didn’t prevent a third Momma helping in 2011 which managed only $37 million stateside. Lawrence’s creation predated Madea but was clearly influenced by Eddie Murphy’s success in The Nutty Professor which had opened a few years before.

As for birthdays, Alan Cumming is 49 today. Many may know him for his role on TV’s “The Good Wife”, but comic book fans know him as Nightcrawler in X2: X-Men United. Other notable appearances: GoldenEye, Eyes Wide Shut, and the Spy Kids and Smurfs franchises.

Rosamund Pike is 35 today. She also costarred in a Pierce Brosnan Bond film, 2002’s Die Another Day. Since then she’s appeared in Pride&Prejudice, An Education, Wrath of the Titans, Jack Reacher, and The World’s End. Ms. Pike will become much more high-profile when she costars alongside Ben Affleck in this fall’s eagerly awaited David Fincher thriller Gone Girl.

As for Six Degrees of Separation between them – well, they both were in Bond films with Pierce Brosnan. And Cumming was in Eyes Wide Shut with Tom Cruise who was in Jack Reacher with Pike.

And that’s today – January 27 – in Movie History!

Box Office Predictions: January 31-February 2

It’s very early in the year but this upcoming weekend at the box office is a good candidate for one of the dullest we’ll see all year. The Zac Efron comedy That Awkward Moment and Kate Winslet/Josh Brolin drama Labor Day are the only debuts and neither seems to be garnering much excitement. You can find my individual prediction posts on each here:

If neither of those titles breaks out above double digits, the chance are high that the Kevin Hart/Ice Cube comedy Ride Along could top the box office for the third week in a row. There is, however, another factor. Disney’s megahit Frozen is expanding its theater count with a sing-along version of the film and that just might cause it to see an increase from this past weekend. I’m predicting it’ll be extremely close between those holdovers for #1 in a weekend sure to overshadowed by a certain football game capturing the nation’s attention.

With that, my predictions for the weekend’s top five:

1. Ride Along

Predicted Gross: $11.3 million (representing a drop of 47%)

2. Frozen

Predicted Gross: $10.7 million (representing an increase of 19%)

3. Labor Day

Predicted Gross: $8.8 million

4. That Awkward Moment

Predicted Gross: $8 million

5. The Nut Job

Predicted Gross: $7.5 million (representing a drop of 36%)

BOX OFFICE RESULTS FROM LAST WEEKEND: I correctly called Ride Along being #1 for its second weekend and it made $21.2 million, just below my $22.7M prediction. However, I was off with my I, Frankenstein estimate. The critically reviled pic bombed badly with only $8.6 million for a sixth place showing. I gave it way too much credit and said it’d be #2 with $16.6M. Oops. Lone Survivor was second with $12.9 million (in line with my $13.6M prediction) and The Nut Job was third with $12.9 million (in line with my $12.1M prediction). Once again, I made the mistake of leaving Frozen out of the top five. It was fourth with $9.1 million. This left Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit at fifth in its second weekend with $9 million – on pace with my $9.5M estimate.

That’s all for now! I’ll have updates on the blog’s Facebook page Saturday with final predictions and results Monday.

This Day in Movie History: January 26

On This Day in Movie History – January 26 – twenty four years ago, Driving Miss Daisy reached number one at the domestic box office. Bruce Beresford’s drama spanning the decades long relationship between an elderly widowed Georgia woman (Jessica Tandy) and her driver (Morgan Freeman) struck a major chord with audiences and grossed $106 million stateside. Additionally, Academy voters would honor it with Best Picture and Actress for Tandy. Interestingly, Daisy would be the rare movie to win the top Oscar prize without its director even being nominated. That wouldn’t occur again for 22 years when Argo won the award with director Ben Affleck not being recognized.

As for birthdays, today would have marked the 89th birthday of Paul Newman. The iconic star was nominated for ten Oscars yet won just once for 1986’s The Color of Money. In that picture, he reprised his role as Fast Eddie Felson that he made famous in 1961’s The Hustler. Among his many notable pictures: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Sweet Bird of Youth, Hud, Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting, The Towering Inferno, Slap Shot, The Verdict, Nobody’s Fool, Road to Perdition, and Pixar’s Cars. Newman passed away in 2008.

Scott Glenn turns 73 today. The great character actor has appeared in many high-profile pictures working with Robert Altman in Nashville, Francis Ford Coppola in Apocalypse Now, and Oliver Stone in W. He appeared as astronaut Alan Shephard in The Right Stuff and costarred in Urban Cowboy, The Hunt for Red October, The Silence of the Lambs, Backdraft, Courage Under Fire, and the last two features in the Bourne franchise.

As for Six Degrees of Separation between Mr. Newman and Mr. Glenn:

Paul Newman was in Message in a Bottle with Kevin Costner

Kevin Costner was in Silverado with Scott Glenn

And that’s today – January 26 – in Movie History!