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'American Idol' movie 'From Justin to Kelly' flops on opening weekend


By Wade Paulsen, 06/23/2003 

The flop watch is over; for the first time, a project associated with Fox's smash hit television show American Idol has failed in the marketplace. According to the weekly box office charts from Exhibitor Relations, Co., the Idol-based movie From Justin to Kelly, one of three new releases for the June 20-22 weekend, failed to crack the box-office Top 10, with a total box office take of slightly less than $2.9 million.

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Although this is slightly better than the $2.1 million taken in by The Real Cancun, a spin-off from the MTV reality show The Real World, Cancun at least reached the Top 10 in its week of release, while From Justin to Kelly was marooned just off the widely-quoted list at #11. Reuters described J2K's opening performance as "dismal." Nevertheless, because of the movie's estimated $12 million in production costs, well below the Hollywood average, and Fox's decision to cancel most of the promotional material for the film release, From Justin to Kelly may well end up breaking even once it reaches DVD and home video.

Many critics ended up praising the movie's wholesome message while deploring the product; however, at least one person who followed the evolution from pop singer to movie star regretted the "sink-or-swim" approach to From Justin to Kelly. Frankie Avalon, the early 60s pop singer who starred in a series of movies with Annette Funicello that provided the inspiration for J2K, told Janis Page of MSNBC that building an entire movie around Justin and Kelly, neither of whom had any previous acting experience, was a bad idea from the start, especially if Justin and Kelly wanted long-term careers. We think Frankie Avalon is probably right about this, but we doubt whether Idol and J2K producer Simon Fuller, whose last big sensation was the here-today, gone-tomorrow Spice Girls, spends much time worrying about the long-term careers of his "idols."

However, Avalon's words may resonate with Justin and Kelly's fans more than with Mr. Fuller: "When I went into motion pictures, I went in as an ‘and introducing…’ with Jeanne Crain and Alan Ladd. My second picture was with John Wayne. I didn’t have to carry the pictures; I was learning. As years went by and I started doing the little teenage beach party pictures, then I could hold my own and star in pictures that were very successful at the box office.

“Today, you get a kid like Britney Spears and you put her in a $15 million picture that she’s expected to carry — it doesn’t happen. They have one shot at it and then they’re gone. So now when the records stop, the movies aren’t going to be there either, because they had their shot. That’s a tremendous difference from when I was starting out.”

We wish Kelly, who still has a huge chart hit with "Miss Independent," and Justin, whose first CD is not doing as well as Kelly's, the good fortune to have more of a learning curve and less responsibility if they make another film. In the meantime, we await to see whether the rumored Clay-and-Ruben "buddy comedy" (think Hope and Crosby) will ever get made, following the dud that was J2K.

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