i>KINGDOM WEARS BOX-OFFICE CROWN

Forbidden Kingdom, the martial-arts family film that brought together Jackie Chan and Jet Li for the first time, wound up at the top of the domestic box office over the weekend with an estimated $20.9 million in ticket sales. In an interview with Bloomberg News, Paul Dergarabedian, president of Media By Numbers, said, "The film is a good, solid action movie and audience, especially young audience, is looking for that shot of adrenaline. ... This was kind of warming up to summer." Coming in second was the Judd Apatow R-rated comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall, written by and starring Jason Segel, which brought in $17.3 million. Several analysts had predicted that it would emerge as the weekend winner, citing its much-talked-about billboard campaign that had heightened awareness of the movie. Two other newcomers flopped. Sony's 88 Minutes, starring Al Pacino, which had been mercilessly drubbed by critics, opened in fourth place with just $6.8 million, while the Ben Stein documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, which argued on behalf of "intelligent design" -- that is, the biblical view of creation -- failed to bring out church groups in big numbers and settled for just $3.1 million to wind up in ninth place. Overall, the box office was up for the first time in five weeks, with the top 12 films earning $82.1 million, up 12 percent from the comparable weekend a year ago. "There is a collective sigh of relief in Hollywood," Dergarabedian told the Associated Press. So far this year, revenue is down 3.4 percent from last year while attendance is down 6.5 percent.

The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Media by Numbers:

1. The Forbidden Kingdom, $20.9 million; 2. Forgetting Sarah Marshall, $17.3 million; 3. Prom Night, $9.1 million; 4. 88 Minutes, $6.8 million; 5. Nim's Island, $5.7 million; 6. 21, $5.5 million; 7. Street Kings, $4 million; 8. Horton Hears a Who!, $3.5 million; 9. Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, $3.1 million; 10. Leatherheads, $3 million.

HORTON REMAINS IN LEAD OVERSEAS

Overseas, Horton Hears a Who! continued to hold onto the lead for the fourth straight week, earning $9.7 million and bringing its overseas total to $117.7 million. The results continued to dumbfound analysts, especially since the Dr. Seuss books are not nearly as popular overseas as they are in the U.S. In second place was Fox's Street Kings, which took in $8.5 million. In France, Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis added another $7 million to its gross, putting it over the $200-million mark.

VIACOM TO START MOVIE CHANNEL WITH TWO OTHER STUDIOS

In a move that puts it on a collision course with CBS, Viacom Inc., which, like CBS, is a unit of Sumner Redstone's National Amusements, has joined a group of studios aiming to create a premium cable-TV movie channel and video-on-demand service. The group includes Paramount Pictures and Paramount Classics, both owned by Viacom, Lionsgate, and MGM. The channel would compete with CBS-owned Showtime, another premium movie channel that the three studios have previously sold movies to. In an interview with Daily Variety, Showtime chief Matt Blank suggested that the group decided to form their own movie channel after Showtime refused to pay the price the studios were asking. Redstone himself was quoted as saying: "I have stated from the beginning that Viacom and CBS have the right to pursue their own strategic objectives in the best interest of their individual shareholders. ... Competition between the two companies hones their skills and their productivity."

BOND'S ASTON MARTIN PLUNGES INTO LAKE

The Aston Martins featured in James Bond movies may whiz around hairpin turns at hold-onto-your-seats speeds, but the driver of a $250,000 model being delivered to the set of the latest Bond movie Quantum of Solace reportedly lost control of the car on the edge of Lake Garda in Italy Saturday, broke through a guard rail and plunged into the lake below. The driver, Fraser Dunn, who was able to break out of the vehicle and swim to safety, was reportedly not seriously injured, but the car itself was an unsalvageable wreck.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.