News

'Forbidden,' 'Forgetting' Fly

by Brandon Gray
Jet Li and Jackie Chan in The Forbidden Kingdom
April 20, 2008

A couple of new movies with decent appeal lifted weekend moviegoing above the same period last year, but overall business was still sub-par for the time of year.

Oriental fantasy The Forbidden Kingdom wafted to the top of the weekend chart with an estimated $20.9 million on approximately 3,900 screens at 3,151 locations. The Lionsgate release was sold as a family adventure, a hyper Wizard of Oz-Karate Kid-Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon hybrid, and as the first pairing of action stars Jackie Chan and Jet Li, who each have fan bases that have led to consistent returns in the past. Forbidden Kingdom's start ranked on the high end for each with attendance in the vicinity of Chan's Shanghai Noon and Shanghai Knights.

The latest raunchy comedy from producer Judd Apatow and crew, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, grossed an estimated $17.3 million on around 3,400 screens at 2,798 sites, doing a bit better than the similar The Heartbreak Kid. Heavily promoted and distributed by Universal Pictures like Apatow's The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, the $30 million production didn't reach the heights of those pictures. But it was never going to with its negative angle, from the title to posters saying "You Suck Sarah Marshall" to a main character whining about his breakup, and with its more narrow subject, like its tropical setting and Hollywood leads.

Outside of Forbidden Kingdom and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, little else was going on. Al Pacino vehicle 88 Minutes nabbed a modest estimated $6.8 million at 2,168 theaters, hindered by marketing that wasn't clear whether the movie was a real time thriller or a conventional serial killer mystery. Also opening, creationist propaganda piece, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, being pitched as a documentary in a manner similar to Michael Moore's fare, inherited a windy estimated $3.2 million at 1,052 venues. Though meager, it wasn't a total flunkout given the genre and its independent release.

Last weekend's top grosser, Prom Night, wilted 56 percent to an estimated $9.1 million for $32.6 million in ten days. The drop was typical of the genre and better than fellow second weekend titles, Street Kings and Smart People, which had alarming falls of over 60 percent each. Audiences continued to reject Leatherheads, down 52 percent for a flabby $26.6 million in 17 days, and successful gambling thriller, 21, took its steepest hit yet, off 47 percent for nearly $70 million in 24 days.

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