15 Repeatable Facts About Groundhog Day

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

As if you weren’t aware by now from repeated viewings, Groundhog Day’s story of a bitter TV weatherman waking up to the same cold February morning, in the same small Pennsylvania town of Punxsutawney, hearing the same Sonny & Cher song, managed to be both funny and profound. On the 25th anniversary of its release, here are some things you might not have known about Harold Ramis's comedy classic.

1. TOM HANKS AND MICHAEL KEATON TURNED DOWN PLAYING PHIL.

Though it's hard to imagine Groundhog Day without Bill Murray, he wasn't the only actor approached to play weatherman Phil Connors. Tom Hanks was busy, and figured if he starred in the film audiences would just expect him to become nice because he’s always nice anyway. Michael Keaton didn’t understand the script. (He later admitted to regretting the decision.)

2. MULTIPLE CHANGES WERE MADE BETWEEN THE FIRST AND FINAL DRAFTS.

Danny Rubin wrote the original screenplay, envisioning someone like Kevin Kline for the lead role. In Rubin’s version, the movie begins as Phil is living through February 2nd again and using that knowledge to his advantage, without an explanation as to what is going on for the audience to understand right away. In the end, Phil killed himself, only to wake up to the same morning again. Also in the original ending, Rita revealed that she’s also stuck in an endless time loop.

3. IT WAS FILMED IN WOODSTOCK, ILLINOIS.

Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell in Groundhog Day (1993)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania didn’t have a town center that looked good on camera, according to co-writer and director Harold Ramis, so they shot in Illinois instead. Punxsutawney got their revenge by banning Punxsutawney Phil himself from appearing in the movie.

4. FAKE SNOW HAD TO BE BROUGHT IN.

Filming took place from March 16 to June 10, 1992, so some days in Woodstock reached 80 degrees. That couldn’t (and didn’t) stop the cast and extras from having to wear coats.

5. MICHAEL SHANNON EMBARRASSED HIMSELF IN FRONT OF BILL MURRAY.

Michael Shannon (he played Fred in his first feature role) approached Murray because he spotted him listening to his favorite band, Talking Heads, on a little boombox between takes. After asking the star if he liked the band, he realized how dumb the question was, and Murray acknowledged that he liked the band in such a way that Shannon thought that Murray believed him to be stupid. After Shannon recounted the story to Ramis, Ramis made Murray apologize, which only further embarrassed Shannon.

6. BILL MURRAY GRADUALLY DISCOVERED PHIL’S DUALITY.

Sometimes when Ramis would talk to Murray about Phil’s motivation, Murray would stop him and ask, “Just tell me—good Phil or bad Phil?”

7. THREE DAYS OF SHOOTING WERE WASTED.

In a scene that would ultimately be cut, Phil gave himself a mohawk, repainted his room, and had fun with a chainsaw. Instead, Ramis just had Phil break a pencil, only to see it appear whole again the next morning, to show what was going on.

8. MURRAY FED THE HUNGRY WOODSTOCK ONLOOKERS.

Moments into their first meeting, Stephen Tobolowsky (Ned Ryerson) pointed out to Murray that the Woodstock residents attempting to take a look at their scene looked famished. Murray then ran into a bakery, purchased their entire supply of Danishes, and tossed them to the crowd.

9. THE GROUNDHOG BIT MURRAY. THREE TIMES.

His name was Scooter. Murray claimed Scooter hated him since day one.

10. ANDIE MACDOWELL COULDN’T SAY "RUIN" TO RAMIS’S LIKING.

Rita was supposed to say, “Oh, let’s not ruin it!” to Ned when he proposed a three-person celebration. Unfortunately, MacDowell’s South Carolina accent caused her to say "ruin" in a way that Ramis felt would be unclear to some viewers. They settled on having her say “Oh, let’s not spoil it!” instead.

11. THERE WAS A BIG DEBATE OVER WHETHER PHIL AND RITA HAD SEX.

Murray refused to shoot the last scene between the two, when it finally became February 3rd, until it was determined whether or not he was wearing his pajamas. Ramis put it to a cast and crew vote, and it ended in a tie. The assistant set director insisted the movie would be ruined if Phil appeared shirtless in the end. Ramis considered that the tie-breaking vote.

12. NOBODY REALLY KNOWS HOW LONG MURRAY WAS STUCK IN THE SAME DAY.

Ramis refuted an earlier estimate of 10 years, guessing in 2009 it was more like “30 to 40 years.” In Rubin’s original script, Murray was looping for 10,000 years, and he marked the time by reading one page in one of the B&B’s library books every day.

13. THERE IS A PLAQUE COMMEMORATING THE PUDDLE.

Bricks had to be removed to make the infamous puddle come to life. Woodstock later added a plaque that reads, “Bill Murray Stepped Here.”

14. MURRAY AND RAMIS DISAGREED. A LOT.

When promoting the movie back in 1993, Murray remembered wanting it to be more comedic, with Ramis insisting on focusing more on the romance. In 2004, Rubin recalled the opposite being the case: that Murray wanted Groundhog Day to be more philosophical than it was, while Ramis tried to keep it comedic.

15. MURRAY AND RAMIS’S FRIENDSHIP FELL APART ONCE FILMING ENDED.

Ramis admitted that his old friend and fellow Stripes and Ghostbusters star was "really irrationally mean and unavailable" at times, and often late to set, though he attributed the behavior to a divorce Murray was going through at the time. Outside of a few words at one wake and one bar mitzvah, Murray stopped speaking entirely to Ramis for 20 years, only to finally bury the hatchet on Ramis’s death bed before he passed away from complications due to autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis in 2014.

Rewind Time With This Blockbuster-Themed Party Game

Amazon/Big Potato Games
Amazon/Big Potato Games

With only one Blockbuster location left in the world, the good old days of wandering video rental store aisles and getting chewed out for late fees are definitely a thing of the past—but like so many relics from the '90s, the pull of nostalgia has ensured that Blockbuster (or at least the brand) won't disappear for good. Now the video store is back in the form of a party game from Big Potato Games that is designed to test the movie knowledge of you and up to 11 friends.

Marketing itself as “a movie game for anyone who has ever seen a movie,” the Blockbuster party game consists of two parts. In part one, players from each team compete head-to-head to name as many movies as they can that fit under specific categories (e.g., movies with Tom Cruise, famous trilogies, movies with planes). In the second half, two teams face off against each other to test their skills at a game of movie-related charades. The catch? Players can only describe movies in one of three randomly chosen ways: acting out scenes, rattling off a famous quote, or describing the films with one word.

The real selling point of the whole package is that Big Potato fit all the game cards and buzzer into a box that is virtually identical to the old-school Blockbuster VHS rental cases, right down to its distinct color scheme and shape. All it's missing is the membership card. 

The Blockbuster board game costs $26 on Amazon and $20 at Target. That’s a fair price for getting the chance to rewind time.

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8 Festive Facts About Hallmark Channel Christmas Movies

The holiday season means gifts, lavish meals, stocking stuffers, and what appear to be literally hundreds of holiday-themed movies running in perpetuity on the Hallmark Channel, which has come to replace footage of a crackling fireplace as the background noise of choice for cozy evenings indoors. Last year, roughly 70 million people watched Hallmark's holiday scheduling block. If you’re curious how the network manages to assemble films like Check Inn to Christmas, Christmas at Graceland: Home for the Holidays, and Sense, Sensibility & Snowmen with such efficiency—a total of 40 new films will debut this season on the Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Movies and Mysteries, and Hallmark Movies Now—keep reading.

1. The Hallmark Channel Christmas movie tradition started with ABC.

The idea of unspooling a continuous run of holiday films started in the 1990s, when ABC offshoot network ABC Family started a "25 Days of Christmas" programming promotion that would go on to feature the likes of Joey Lawrence and Mario Lopez. The Hallmark Channel, which launched in 2001, didn’t fully embrace the concept until 2011, when ABC Family moved away from the concept in an effort to appeal to teen viewers.

2. Most Hallmark Channel Christmas movies are shot in Canada.

To maximize their $2 million budget, most Hallmark Channel holiday features are shot in Canada, where tax breaks can stretch the dollar. Wintry Vancouver is a popular destination, though films have also been shot in Montreal and Toronto. One film, 2018's Christmas at the Palace, was shot in Romania to take advantage of the country's castles.

3. Each Hallmark Channel Christmas movie only takes a couple of weeks to film.

If you’re wondering why a holiday movie on basic cable can regularly attract—and keep—a list of talent ranging from Candace Cameron Bure to Lacey Chabert, the answer is partly scheduling. Most Hallmark holiday movies take just two to three weeks to shoot, meaning actors don’t have to commit months out of the year to a project. Actors like Rachael Leigh Cook, who stars in this year's A Blue Ridge Mountain Christmas, have also complimented the channel on giving them opportunities to be with their families while on location: Cook said that the production schedule allowed her time to FaceTime with family back home.

4. Hallmark Channel Christmas movies use a variety of tricks to create snow.

Even more pervasive than Dean Cain in the Hallmark Channel Christmas line-up is snow. Because some of the films shoot in the summer, it’s not always possible to achieve that powder naturally. Producers use a variety of tricks to simulate snowfall, including snow blankets that mimic the real thing when laid out; foam; commercial replica snow; crushed limestone; and ice shavings. Actors might also get covered with soapy bubbles for close-ups. The typical budget for snow per movie is around $50,000.

5. There’s a psychological reason why Hallmark Channel Christmas movies are so addictive.

Like a drug, Hallmark Channel Christmas movies provide a neurological reward. Speaking with CNBC in 2019, Pamela Rutledge, behavioral scientist, director of the Media Psychology Research Center, and a faculty member in the Media Psychology department at Fielding Graduate University, explained that the formulaic plots and predictability of the films is rewarding, especially when viewers are trying to unwind from the stress of the holiday season. “The lack of reality at all levels, from plot to production, signals that the movies are meant to be escapism entertainment,” Rutledge said. “The genre is well-defined, and our expectations follow. This enables us to suspend disbelief.”

6. Hallmark Channel Christmas movie fans now have their own convention.

Call it the Comic-Con of holiday cheer. This year, fans of Hallmark Channel’s Christmas programming got to attend ChristmasCon, a celebration of all things Hallmark in Edison, New Jersey. Throngs of people gathered to attend panels with movie actors and writers, scoop up merchandise, and vie for prizes during an ugly sweater competition. The first wave of $50 admission tickets sold out instantly. Hallmark Channel USA was the official sponsor.

7. Hallmark Channel Christmas movies are helping keep cable afloat.

Actors Brooke D'Orsay and Marc Blucas are pictured in a publicity still from the 2017 Hallmark Channel original movie 'Miss Christmas'
Brooke D'Orsay and Marc Blucas in Miss Christmas (2017).
Hallmark Channel

In an era of cord-cutting and streaming apps, more and more people are turning away from cable television, preferring to queue up programming when they want it. But viewers of Hallmark Channel’s holiday offerings often tune in as the movie is airing. In 2016, 4 million viewers watched the line-up “live.” One reason might be the communal nature of the films. People tend to watch holiday-oriented programming in groups, tuning in as they air. The result? For the fourth quarter of 2018, the Hallmark Channel was the most-watched cable network among women 18 to 49 and 25 to 54, even outpacing broadcast network programming on Saturday nights.

8. You can get paid to watch Hallmark Channel Christmas movies.

If you think you have the constitution to make it through 24 Hallmark Channel holiday films in 12 days, you might want to consider applying for the Hallmark Movie Dream Job contest, which is sponsored by Internet Service Partners and will pay $1000 to the winning entrant who seems most capable of binging the two dozen films and making wry comments about them on social media. You can enter though December 6 here.

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