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Jet And Jackie Nudge Out Judd For No. 1; Ben Stein Shows He’s No Michael Moore

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SUNDAY AM: I now have the weekend’s official numbers, and kudos to my box office gurus for getting them right once again. Moviegoers were in a kick-butt mood, so No. 1 was Lionsgate/The Weinstein Co’s The Forbidden Kingdom, pairing martial arts movie stars Jet Li and Jackie Chan for the first time: it had a $20.8 million weekend after opening to $7.7M Friday and $7.9M Saturday in 3,151 theaters. fk2.jpgIndeed, ”the smart money” was on Forbidden Kingdom because of its PG-13 rating, one marketer told me. “Its target audience has been reliable in the past.” And it was again. But in a conversation with me this morning, TWC’s Harvey Weinstein, whose company shares domestic and foreign 50/50 with Lionsgate, credited the movie’s success to producer Casey Silver. ”First and foremost, no one has ever seen Jackie and Jet together but Casey Silver got them to do the movie. And then he brought in Rob Minkoff of The Lion King and Stuart Little to make a family movie that appealed to martial arts fans as well as to my daughters aged 5, 10 and 13 who loved it. It’s more fantasy and Narnia than it is a big martial arts movie.” Claiming the pic was made for only $55 million, TWC is quick to point out that Forbidden Kingdom is the first film released under its Asia Fund.

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Wkd Prediction: ‘Forbidden Kingdom’ Could Drop-Kick ‘Sarah Marshall’

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My box office gurus agree that Lionsgate/The Weinstein Co’s Forbidden Kingdom starring Jackie Chan and Jet Li and playing in 3,151 theaters should beat out Universal’s Judd Apatow-bannered Forgetting Sarah Marshall in 2,798 venues for the No. 1 domestic box office gross this weekend. 88minutes_galleryposter.jpgOf course, it could be a close call if both pics earn in the high teens, which is possible. Yet R-rated Sarah Marshall will probably fall short because two of the four tracking services are showing the pic is tracking weaker than expected and may make only in the low double digits of $10M-$14M. I do know that Universal would be thrilled with anything north of $15 million. “It’s not a big movie. But every good movie from Judd Apatow is an opportunity to outperform,” a studio source tells me.

Rivals claim one problem is the pic is packed with TV stars, while another is that Jason Segel, who stars and also wrote the script, portrays a ”wussy” guy (with full frontal nudity) which may turn off Apatow’s strong male fan base. Then again, a watchable comedy has been AWOL from the cineplexes. And Uni’s clever teaser ad campaign — “Who Is Sarah Marshall?” – sparked lots of Internet interest. Still, ”the smart money is on Forbidden Kingdom because of its PG-13 rating,” one marketer told me. “It has had more consistency even if its strength hasn’t built for weeks and is flat. But its target audience has been somewhat … Read More »

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