Forecast: '21 Jump Street' Guns for Box Office Glory
With a recognizable brand, two popular lead actors and a strong marketing effort, the big-screen adaptation of 21 Jump Street looks poised to take first place ahead of animated hit The Lorax. The Jonah Hill-Channing Tatum action comedy reaches 3,121 locations, making it the only new nationwide release this weekend. There are a handful of smaller movies opening in limited release, though, including Casa De Mi Padre, Jeff, Who Lives at Home and Seeking Justice, and Friends with Kids is making a nationwide expansion.

21 Jump Street is definitely not the first movie adapted from a popular TV series, nor will it be the last one. In the past decade, for example, Hollywood has mined 1970s and 1980s TV with varying success. S.W.A.T. and The Dukes of Hazzard opened strongest with $37 million and $30.7 million, respectively, though Starsky and Hutch also had a nice run following a $28.1 million start. The A-Team and Miami Vice both debuted a tad lower ($25.7 million), while the only major outlier is Land of the Lost, which opened to just $18.8 million on its way to a disappointing $49.4 million.

Among these comparable titles, 21 Jump Street is probably closest to The Dukes of Hazzard and Starsky and Hutch in the way that it features dim-witted male protagonists comedically fighting crime. In 21 Jump Street's case, those characters are undercover police officers playing by Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, both of whom are at very solid points in their careers. Hill is coming off an Oscar nomination for Moneyball, while Tatum just helped The Vow open to $41 million on its way to $118.7 million and counting.

The marketing campaign has been a textbook example of how to succinctly and clearly convey a lot of valuable information to prospective audiences. Most previews manage to introduce the premise (two immature police officers head back to high school to break up a drug ring), loosely define the characters (Hill is the passive, brainy type while Tatum is the dopey hunk) and even throw in a few choice jokes.

Even though the movie is set in high school, it should appeal to adults with the wish-fulfillment angle (who doesn't want a chance to re-do their high school experience?). Date night crowds should turn out as well, as there is plenty for both men (Action! Comedy!) and women (Tatum!). The only downside is that there remains some skepticism about the necessity of a movie based on a corny 80s TV show, but the outstanding Rotten Tomatoes score (86 perfect fresh as of Thursday afternoon) should help combat that a bit. Sony is anticipating an opening in the mid-$20 million range, but it's likely that 21 Jump Street winds up with at least $30 million this weekend.

Casa De Mi Padre, which is a Spanish-language movie starring Will Ferrell (no typos there), opens at 382 locations this weekend, while the Duplass Brothers comedy Jeff, Who Lives at Home debuts at 254 venues. Both movies should be in line for somewhere between $1 and $2 million, which will probably not be enough to crack the Top 10. Nicolas Cage's tailspin continues this weekend with Seeking Justice, which is being released in to 230 theaters by Anchor Bay Entertainment. Finally, following its $2.02 million debut last weekend, Friends with Kids is expanding to 640 locations and should at least match that figure in its second outing.

Weekend Forecast (March 16-18)

1. 21 Jump Street - $32.5 million

2. The Lorax - $24.9 million (-36%)

3. John Carter - $15.1 million (-50%)

4. Project X - $5.2 million (-53%)

5. Act of Valor - $3.8 million (-46%)

Bar for Success

21 Jump Street will almost certainly generate strong word-of-mouth (it basically lives up to all of the hype, and general audiences should dig it), so an opening of at least $25 million will translate in to a very healthy box office run.

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Last Weekend's Forecast: Judgment Day Arrives for 'John Carter'

Last Weekend Report: 'The Lorax' Defeats Disappointing 'John Carter'

March Preview (Part 1): 'John Carter,' 'Lorax,' '21 Jump Street' & More