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Luckiest Friday the 13ths in U.S. movie history

Luckiest Friday the 13 premiere dates in U.S. cinema history
Marisa Tomei's Oscar-winning performance in My Cousin Vinny was but one of many highlights among films that hit theaters on Friday, March 13, 1992. (Photo by Barry King/Liaison via Getty Images)

Skyscraper leads a quintet of anticipated movies set for limited or wide release this Friday, July 13. So far, the action thriller’s Rotten Tomatoes profile gauges 96 percent interest among prospective theater-goers.

That ties Skyscraper with two of its premiere partners, albeit ones that have drawn less media hype.

The docudrama Shock and Awe and independent comedy Eighth Grade have the same 96 percent “want to see” score. In addition, critics have combined to give the latter 97 percent approval on the Tomatometer.

Even Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation is tallying promising critical and audience scores. But how it fares upon its release will be another matter, as it would for any other flick.

Come what may, these movies — along with Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot — are seeking company among the most memorable released on a Friday the 13.

The centuries-old superstition of ill fortune becomes an inevitable punchline when something positive develops on the day. Since Friday became the go-to release day, movies have had ample opportunity to lather luck on the 13.

Granted, the industry has had its collective misses. Between The Island, Roadie and Wholly Moses!, June 13, 1980, was not cinema’s finest day.

But many pairs, or even troikas, of widely acclaimed and decorated films have hit the silver screen on the same Friday the 13. The most memorable days in that respect are ranked as follows.

To factor into the ranking, a film must have had a limited or full premiere on the date in U.S. theaters. All percentages are courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes, and all dates and awards are according to the Internet Movie Database.

10. July 13, 2001
Two-and-a-half weeks after a late-June Los Angeles premiere, Legally Blonde reached the rest of the nation. By the next year, star Reese Witherspoon and the whole project were on the Golden Globe ballot.

With 68 and 72 percent critical and audience favorability, Rotten Tomatoes singled out Witherspoon. The critical consensus declared that her “funny, nuanced performance makes this movie better than it would have been otherwise.”

Concomitant with Legally Blonde, The Score premiered four days after Baltimore got the first glimpse. It would also hover around the high 60s and low 70s, approval-wise, with key cast members spearheading the appeal. Beyond Robert DeNiro, Marlon Brando and Edward Norton’s acclaimed work, Angela Bassett won an Image Award for her role.

Luckiest Friday the 13 premiere dates in U.S. cinema history

Select audiences first watched Reese Witherspoon stand out in Legally Blonde in late June 2001. The next month, on Friday the 13, everyone else got their chance to see the hit. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc)

9. Feb. 13, 1998
After five other countries got looks in December and January, U.S. theaters started screening The Borrowers. While audiences gave it an iffy 48 percent score, critics supported it with a 73 percent tally. In its home country, the family comedy contended for two BAFTAs, including the prize for Best British Film.

Back stateside, one day after its New York premiere, The Wedding Singer emerged as a genuine gem for Adam Sandler. He and costar Drew Barrymore were each nominated for an American Comedy Award. Beyond that, critics and audiences endorsed the film to the respective tunes of 68 and 80 percent.

Fun fact: Sandler and Barrymore’s next major collaboration, 50 First Dates, also premiered on a Friday the 13. But that February 2004 release would draw far fewer raves.

8. July 1984
The Last Starfighter and The Muppets Take Manhattan were niche projects, but well-received niche projects.

Of the former, Rotten Tomatoes concluded, “The Last Starfighter captures an era and eager style of filmmaking well.” Actor Robert Preston gained Saturn consideration while the movie mustered 76 percent and 69 percent critical and audience approval.

The second Muppet movie was given allowances for facing the lofty bar its predecessor had set. It boasts solid scores of 81 percent critical and 76 percent viewer thumbs-up. In addition, its musical score was up for a Saturn as well as an Oscar.

7. October 13, 1989
The three big films opening to multiple U.S. audiences garnered more acclaim from critics than audiences or award panels. The Tomatometer tallies 96, 93 and 89 percent for The Fabulous Baker Boys, Crimes and Misdeameanors and Breaking In, respectively.

Only Crimes and Misdemeanors nabbed similar audience favorability at 91 percent. The Fabulous Baker Boys is a distant second at 69 percent. Moreover, even Rotten Tomatoes’ critical consensus admits the latter “is nothing special.”

That helps to explain why it nabbed no major nominations, just like its two premiere partners.

6. August 13, 2010
A pair of radiant overseas productions hit American eyes for the first time on this date.

With a limited release, Australia’s Animal Kingdom nabbed 95 percent critical and 83 percent audience approval. Awards-wise, supporting actress Jacki Weaver stood out to the tune of Oscar, Golden Globe and Saturn nominations.

Even more theater-goers had their first chance to see India’s Peepli (Live). Those who capitalized saw an eventual best-film nominee at the next Asian Film Awards.

The dramedy would nab three more nods at the same show, including the prize for best composer. Among viewers, it impressed 85 percent of professionals and 72 percent of paying customers.

5. June 13, 1986
Two of the three major films premiering across America on this day struck gold beyond doubt. The outlier, The Manhattan Project, still fetched Marshall Brickman the 1987 Presidents Award from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films.

The two others easily tallied majority favor from all parties polled and appeared on mainstream award ballots. Back to School landed four Oscar nominations in a diverse array of categories. The one onscreen Academy nominee, supporting actress Michelle Pfieffer, would also win a Golden Globe and contend for a BAFTA.

What Pfieffer was to Back to School, Bob Hoskins was to Mona Lisa. He would claim a Golden Globe and prevail in his BAFTA nomination while fetching the film its one Oscar nod. Though less decorated, Mona Lisa scored a 97 percent critical score, along with 81 percent audience approval.

4. December 13, 2002
Star Trek: Nemesis may have had the inevitable misfortune of showing up too late in its series. Rotten Tomatoes acknowledges as much when it articulates the film’s sub-50 percent approval by critics and viewers. Its assessment: “Nemesis has an interesting premise and some good action scenes, but the whole affair feels a bit tired.”

That notwithstanding, Nemesis was nominated for best science film and three other titles at the Saturn Awards. In addition, it had more decisively solid company on its release docket.

After premiering at an August festival, then in select theaters eight days earlier, Drumline had its broad release on Friday the 13. Breakout star Nick Cannon led the way in award nominations while the project vied for outstanding motion picture at the 2003 Images.

But About Schmidt won this premiere day in the long run. Released on a limited basis before spreading post-New Year’s, it claimed the Golden Globe for best screenplay and was up for best dramatic film. Stars Jack Nicholson and Kathy Bates both garnered Oscar, SAG and Golden Globe nominations.

Nicholson, who won his Golden Globe and was also nominated for a BAFTA, stands out on Rotten Tomatoes. Giving the project 85 percent and 74 percent critic and audience scores, the site concludes, “In this funny, touching character study, Nicholson gives one of the best performances of his career.”

Luckiest Friday the 13 premiere dates in U.S. cinema history

Director David O’Russell received one of American Hustle’s 10 Oscar nominations within two months of its Friday the 13 premiere (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

3. December 13, 2013
Select theaters got a glimpse at two eventual Oscar magnets one week before the whole nation.

Scoring 93 percent critical and 74 percent audience approval, American Hustle was nominated for 10 Academy Awards. It would also win three Golden Globes and BAFTAs apiece out of seven and 10 nods, respectively. Most impressively, though, the cast combined to win a SAG.

With Saving Mr. Banks, Emma Thompson stood out by contending for a BAFTA, a SAG and a Golden Globe. The movie’s offscreen personnel combined for one Oscar nomination and four other BAFTA nods. Rotten Tomatoes declared story behind one of Walt Disney’s classic projects “Aggressively likeable,” with 78 percent critical approval.

2. August 13, 1982
Two classics went national on this day. More than 35 years later, they each hover around 80 percent critical and audience thumbs-up. Awards-wise, one would garner instant gratification, the other delayed.

An Officer and a Gentleman would permeate the Academy and Golden Globe ballots. Supporting actor Louis Gossett, Jr., and the music crew each won an Oscar. Lead actress Debra Winger was one of four other cast and crew members on the Academy ballot.

Star Richard Gere joined the contenders when the movie mustered a similar slew of success at the Golden Globes. Beyond that, the Oscar-winning song “Up Where We Belong” scored the equivalent prize at the BAFTAs.

In retrospect, Fast Times at Ridgemont High was conspicuously absent at these hardware shows. With that said, it would be placed in the National Film Registry in 2005

1. March 13, 1992
Three A-grade movies had their multi-city premiere all at once on this day.

While it was overlooked during award season, American Me boasts 75 percent critical and 90 percent audience approval. Eclipsing that legacy, however, are a pair of Oscar-winning classics.

After an exclusive NYC premiere on Feb 27, other U.S. locations got limited dibs on Howard’s End March 13. By the time of its full national release on Feb. 26, 1993, it was up for nine Academy Awards. Three of those nominations would yield an Oscar.

With mid-80s critic and viewer scores, My Cousin Vinny amazingly falls behind its two contemporaries. Even so, it has arguably the strongest resonance of the three for the top-notch Marisa Tomei-Joe Pesci tag team.

For his part, Pesci took home an American Comedy Award. Outdoing her costar, Tomei would win an Oscar.

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Al Daniel

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