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Jet Li and Jackie Chan take on Sarah Marshall

April 17th, 2008

We are getting closer and closer to the first weekend of May, and the unofficial opening of the summer blockbuster season. Because of this, studios are getting more and more reluctant to release a major film and the best most films coming out this weekend can hope for is a midlevel hit. However, while there is no obvious first place film on this week's list, that does mean we should have a close race for the number one spot and at least that should generate some interest from box office watchers.

The Forbidden Kingdom marks the first time Jet Li and Jackie Chan have teamed up in a movie. A fact the studio has been using to their advantage in their ad campaign. (I especially like the three part ads that have been blanketing TVs this week.) This alone should get people interested, but it will take more for the film to survive at the box office. Fortunately, its reviews are reasonably strong for the type of film and the release date and with enough buzz it has a slight advantage over Forgetting Sarah Marshall thanks to its star power and genre, at least this weekend. Look for a first place finish and $18 million over the next three days, but don't expect the film to have strong legs and even $50 million might be out of the question.

The only other film to have a shot at top spot is Forgetting Sarah Marshall, the latest Judd Apatow project. So far nearly everything he touches has turned to gold... everything but Walk Hard. That movie did earn great reviews but bombed at the box office. This film has earned even better reviews and could earn more during its opening weekend than the previous film earned in total. Granted, just over $18 million for its opening weekend is a little on the high side, but $17 million is not. The only concern is with the star power. Kristen Bell has serious fanboy appeal, but she hasn't shown she can carry a film, while most of the rest are Judd Apatow players who have had most of their box office success as part of ensemble casts. With a production budget of $30 million, it should make enough to make the studio happy, but a second place / $17 million opening is a little lower than earlier expectations.

The final truly wide release of the week is 88 Minutes, a thriller starring Al Pacino. This should be a highly anticipated release, but it has been struggling to find a release date after being filmed in 2005; after seeing the reviews, it's easy to see why. "Shockingly inept," is not the way you want to hear a film being described. Additionally, there's not a lot of star power in the film. Sure, Al Pacino has had a great career, but he hasn't headlined a major hit this millenium. (Ocean's 13 had an ensemble cast while Insomnia was a midlevel hit.) The rest of the cast, on the other hand, have almost no experience with massive blockbusters. A midlevel hit is the most 88 Minutes can hope for, but it is tracking to only reach $10 million over the weekend. This would give it a solid third place, but it is not an impressive opening.

Prom Night may have won the box office crown last weekend, but that won't help it this time around. There are plenty of bad signs regarding the film's box office prospects this weekend. For instance, its reviews are terrible and this has led to a very frontloaded run so far. (It has a very small internal multiplier of just 2.18 last weekend while the midweek numbers have been awful and it has already slipped to third place.) Finally, the film has to deal with three new releases that will all steal a part of its target demographic. This adds up to a 60% drop-off to roughly $8.5 million, and that's not the worst case scenario. It could drop to below $7 million, but that would be a newsworthy collapse. Just below $8 million is probably as bad as it will get while just over $8 million is the mostly likely scenario.

Both 21 and Street Kings should add between $6.5 million and $7 million this weekend. However, only one of these two films will reach the top five with 21 having the advantage.

The final wide release of the week is Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, which is opening in a record-breaking 1,052, the most ever for a documentary. However, calling this movie a documentary is extremely generous. The number of flaws with this movie are numerous, including the science, the politics, and the filmmaking. First of all, Intelligent Design is not scientific by the very definition of the term; this is not up for debate. Secondly, this is a movie that is purportedly about the silencing of opposing voices in science, yet they banned critics from coming to several of the screenings (although there have been a few reviews released) and this is clearly hypocritical. Finally, this is just a bad movie and it will convince no one who isn't already a true believer. The real question is, how many true believers there are. Films aimed at this same target audience have not done particularly well in recent years, and the record-breaking theater count might be too large to handle, but it still should reach the top ten over the weekend. It would only need to earn close to $3 million to reach the top ten, but $4 million is more likely.


Filed under: Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The Forbidden Kingdom, Prom Night, Street Kings, 88 Minutes, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, 21