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Lionsgate has keys to the 'Kingdom'

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Lionsgate has come aboard as domestic distributor of the action epic "The Forbidden Kingdom," which it will co-release in the U.S. with the Weinstein Co. The film marks the first onscreen pairing of martial arts stars Jackie Chan and Jet Li. The project had previously been referred to as the untitled J&J project.

Principal photography is scheduled to begin May 2 in China. Rob Minkoff will direct from an original screenplay by John Fusco that is based on the Chinese legend of the Monkey King. The film's producer is Casey Silver of Casey Silver Prods. Relativity Media is financing the film, with the company's Ryan Kavanaugh serving as executive producer. Action choreographer Wo Ping is creating the fight sequences, and the director of photography is Peter Pau, who won an Academy Award for the cinematography in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."

Overseeing the production for Lionsgate are president of theatrical films Tom Ortenberg, president of film production Mike Paseornek and president of acquisitions and co-productions Peter Block.

Lionsgate will serve as lead distributor on the co-release with the Weinstein Co. It is aiming for a summer 2008 launch in the U.S. Lionsgate U.K. will self-distribute the film in the U.K. The Weinstein Co. will handle distribution in Spain, France and Latin America. Relativity Media will be handling foreign sales on the picture.

" 'The Forbidden Kingdom' has all the makings of a modern classic, and we are thrilled to fly its flag at Lionsgate," Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer said. "Casey Silver scored a real coup in bringing together two titans of martial arts, Jackie Chan and Jet Li, for their first onscreen pairing. He also gave them a project that is absolutely worthy of their talents, built upon a very savvy script that combines Chinese legend with the story of a modern, kung fu obsessed teenager. And Rob Minkoff is the ideal director to handle the film's combination of heart, head and lightning-fast limbs."