Jackie Chan, Jet Li conquer N. American box office

Sun Apr 20, 2008 1:36pm EDT
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By Dean Goodman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "The Forbidden Kingdom," a first collaboration between action heroes Jackie Chan and Jet Li, kicked its rivals at the weekend box office in North America, also becoming the first martial arts movie to open at No. 1 in almost four years.

According to studio estimates issued Sunday, "The Forbidden Kingdom" sold $20.9 million worth of tickets during its first three days, handily exceeding industry forecasts.

Chan and Li play mentors to a modern-day kung fu devotee (played by Michael Angarano) who has been hurled back in time to rural China. It was directed by Rob Minkoff, best known for making the "Stuart Little" family movies. Most critics seemed to like it.

Other debuts included the raunchy romantic comedy "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" at No. 2 with $17.3 million, the Al Pacino thriller "88 Minutes" at No. 4 with $6.8 million, and the Ben Stein documentary "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" at No. 9 with about $3.2 million.

Last weekend's top film, the teen horror "Prom Night," slipped to No. 3 with $9.1 million, taking its 10-day haul to $32.6 million. It was released by Screen Gems, a low-budget division of Sony Corp.

"The Forbidden Kingdom" was released domestically by Lionsgate, a unit of Lions Gate Entertainment Corp, with some financial involvement from the closely held Weinstein Co. Lionsgate had hoped for an opening in the mid- to high-teen millions, said Steve Rothenberg, the studio's president of domestic theatrical distribution.

Li, who turns 45 on Saturday, starred in the last "chopsocky" chart-topper, "Hero," which opened to $18 million in August 2004. His most recent effort "War," a thriller co-starring Jason Statham, opened at No. 2 last August, with $9.8 million.

Chan, 54, topped the chart last August with the buddy comedy "Rush Hour 3," which opened to $49.1 million, but ended up underperforming its predecessors.   Continued...

<p>Jet Li and Liu Yifei in a scene from "The Forbidden Kingdom". REUTERS/Lionsgate Films</p>