Box Office Guru Preview: Chan & Li Face Off Against Sarah Marshall

88 Minutes a distant third.

by | April 17, 2008 | Comments

After four straight weeks of the box office falling significantly behind last year’s pace, the marketplace is finally set to post a win thanks to a trio of new releases targeting different audience segments. In what could be a close battle for the number one spot, the Jackie ChanJet Li actioner The Forbidden Kingdom squares off against the raunchy relationship comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Each has a shot at the top slot. Also opening is the Al Pacino crime drama 88 Minutes which should play to an older audience. Overall, the box office will experience a healthy double digit gain over the same weekend in 2007.

The much-hyped first pairing of martial arts kings Chan and Li is the main selling point behind Lionsgate’s fantasy adventure The Forbidden Kingdom. The PG-13 film tells of an American teen who travels back in time to ancient China where he joins a quest to free the famed Monkey King. Kingdom is practically a must-see for fans of the action stars and of the genre so young males will lead the way. The film comes as a step up for Chan who lately has seen many of his films go directly to DVD. Li on the other hand remains a reliable box office star with most of his pics debuting to averages north of $5,000. However his last film War, a pairing with Jason Statham, debuted to $9.8M and a weaker-than-usual $4,313 average.

The two stars here have tremendous overlap in their fan bases so it may be hard to broaden the audience. However the younger-skewing story should help it pull in more kids and younger teens than past films from the stars. Reviews have been mixed and direct competition should not be too fierce. Kingdom boasts more starpower and screens than Sarah which could allow it to earn a slim victory this weekend. Invading 3,151 theaters, The Forbidden Kingdom may debut with about $17M.

Jet Li and Jackie Chan, at last.

Playing to an older and more female audience will be the R-rated comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall from producer Judd Apatow. The Universal release finds a man jetting off to Hawaii for a break after his celebrity girlfriend dumps him, only to find her and her new rock star boyfriend staying at the same resort. The studio has been bold in its marketing campaign knowing that it has almost no starpower to promote. Instead, it brilliantly churned out simple text posters with nothing more than attention-getting phrases like ‘I’m So Over You Sarah Marshall’ and ‘You Suck Sarah Marshall.’

Buzz has been strong on the comedy and reviews have been pretty good too. Plus with the weekend’s other new films offering male-oriented action, Sarah becomes the primary option for young adult women and couples. The spring date crowd won’t be lining up for a kung fu flick. Male appeal is solid so the break-up saga won’t fall into the chick flick category. Landing in 2,798 locations, Forgetting Sarah Marshall could take in about $16M this weekend.

The cast of Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Sony targets older adults and men in particular with its crime thriller 88 Minutes which features Al Pacino playing a forensic scientist being stalked by a killer. The R-rated film should play mostly to fans of the Oscar winner and will have a hard time branching out wider. Already released theatrically and on DVD in numerous countries around the world, 88 Minutes has a different criminal element to deal with – pirated copies that have circulated throughout the U.S. This has taken some moviegoers out of the picture in terms of sales.

88 should play to the same audience that came out for two other law enforcement roles Pacino took on this decade. 2003’s The Recruit bowed at number one with $16.3M while the previous year’s Insomnia debuted to $20.9M. Both had the help of extra starpower from Colin Farrell and Robin Williams, respectively. Pacino anchors 88 on his own so the grosses will be lower. Negative reviews will also help keep customers away. Opening in 2,168 theaters, 88 Minutes has a lot working against it and could debut to around $8M.

Al Pacino in 88 Minutes

Prom Night hacked up a strong number one bow last weekend but should see heavy erosion this time around thanks to the horror genre’s tendency to see front-loaded grosses. The Sony hit might lose half of its business and take in about $10M for a ten-day cume of $33M.

The Keanu Reeves dirty cop thriller Street Kings opened in second last weekend but has been the top grosser every day since. Fox Searchlight may see a 45% drop to roughly $7M and raise the sum to $23M after ten days. 21, the durable spring hit winning over audiences each week, may slide by 35% to about $6.5M. That would push the cume to a commendable $71M for Sony.

LAST YEAR: A sluggish late-April frame was ruled by the sophomore weekend of Paramount’s hit teen thriller Disturbia which grossed $13M. New Line’s crime thriller Fracture bowed in second with $11M on its way to a respectable $39M for New Line. Paramount claimed third with the Will Ferrell hit Blades of Glory with $7.7M and was followed closely by the $7.6M debut of the Sony thriller Vacancy. A $19.4M final resulted. Disney’s Meet the Robinsons followed with $7M. Focus landed in sixth with a solid opening for the cop comedy Hot Fuzz which took in $5.8M and a $7,089 average. It was the best per-theater score in the Top 20 and the final tally reached $23.6M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya,

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