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. Of 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 reliable in the past.” Expectations are for this first pairing of these martial arts film stars to make $15+M and maybe even $20+M.
As for Sony’s 88 Minutes, which was released first in Europe, its older Al Pacino fans may be turned off by the bad buzz (and bad reviews). Tracking shows it should make only $10 mil from 2,168 runs. Holdovers Prom Night should place #4, and Street Kings #5.