WEEKEND TRACKING: 'Forbidden Kingdom' Likely No. 1 w/$17M-$20M; 'Sarah Marshall' Should Top Pacino's Critical Flop '88 Minutes'; 'Expelled' a Certain Dud!
by Steve Mason
Forbidden Kingdom (Lionsgate), featuring martial arts superstars Jet Li and Jackie Chan, will likely win the box office weekend of April 18-20. With generally positive reviews and a family-friendly PG-13 rating, Kingdom has 7 percent Un-Aided Awareness (buzz) and a Total Aware of 76 percent, according to my studio sources. It has the strongest Definite Interest among Under 25s of the four new releases (53 percent with Males Under 25 and 32 percent with Females Under 25). An excellent 25 percent of young males name this martial arts fantasy film as their first choice, and it could even get a decent family bounce on Saturday. I'm forecasting a $17 million-$20 million opening weekend and $37 million-$42 million domestic.
The tracking for Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Universal) indicates that we may all be suffering from Judd Apatow fatigue. The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Superbad were revolutionary, but Walk Hard and Drillbit Taylor have followed with disastrous results. Still, critics are very positive and, by all accounts, Jason Segel is a charming lead. Overall Definite Interest of 30 percent is very low, but the film is the First Choice of Females Under 25 (15 percent) and the Second Choice with Females 25 Plus (14 percent). This looks like a $13 million-$16 million opening weekend, which would be a disappointment, but I suspect this movie will have legs. $40 million domestic is possible.
Al Pacino is slumming this weekend in 88 Minutes (Sony), and, although awful reviews are pouring in from coast-to-coast, the industry tracking is better than respectable. More people have heard of 88 Minutes (67 percent) than Forgetting Sarah Marshall (63 percent), and the Pacino thriller has a 15 percent First Choice. Not bad for a pre-Iron Man throwaway. The Oscar winner and the R rating make this a 25 Plus genre pic, and those moviegoers don't generally show up on opening weekend. Plus bad reviews and bad word-of-mouth will limit the upside, but I see 88 Minutes reaching $9 million-$12 million and $23 million-$26 million domestic.
Nathan Frankowski's Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed is a documentary being released on more than 1,000 screens by Christian-friendly Rocky Mountain Pictures. Those who have seen it categorize it as anti-Darwinism propaganda, featuring right wing commentator Ben Stein. I’m sure that there's an audience out there somewhere for this type of doc, but there has been very little "intelligent design" involved in marketing the movie. With a Total Aware of only 19 percent and a First Choice score of just 2 percent, Expelled will manage only $1 million-$3 million this weekend, and it will have a difficult time holding on to those screens. It's doomed to $5 million domestic in its theatrical engagements (survival of the fittest?), although a fair number of DVD copies may be sold in evangelical bookstores in the future.