'Sarah Marshall' Weekend Outlook
Forgetting Sarah Marshall poster
By Lee Tistaert     Published April 15, 2008
It's opening in the middle of April, which means if it doesn't hit right now, it could still pick up the right word of mouth and play through May and potentially June as well.
Judd Apatow will find out this weekend as to whether his producing reputation can give Forgetting Sarah Marshall the strength to top the box office. Reviews are good, but this is looking like a leg-reliant comedy. It's opening in the middle of April, which means if it doesn't hit right now, it could still pick up the right word of mouth and play through May and potentially June as well.

A friend of mine has been telling me for weeks that Sarah Marshall is probably not going to pull a Knocked Up at the box office. His reasoning is that half of that movie's box office was a result of Katherine Heigl coming off Grey’s Anatomy, as well as Seth Rogen, and that Superbad relied heavily on the appeal of Rogen as well as Michael Cera coming off Arrested Development. In other words, the fact that Judd Apatow produced this feature doesn't mean much in the scheme of things. He may be right. But the ad-campaign is also a doing a good job of making you think Apatow directed Sarah Marshall, even though he did not. Most of the Apatow faces are here (with the exception of Rogen), which gives the illusion that we are in the same hands as the guy who brought us Knocked Up and 40-Year-Old Virgin. Just look at the trailer – Jason Segel asking his doctor about STD's has the same basic production design/scene-look that Knocked Up had during the pregnancy test.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall is showing potential signs of being another Something About Mary ($13.9 million opening). Ben Stiller was more of a known comic than Jason Segel is right now, and that was also the Farrelly brothers. But if you think about it, Judd Apatow has basically been taking on the Farrelly brothers' previous reputation in the gross-out but sweet-natured comedy genre. The Farrelly's used to be known for this genre, and Apatow has been basically replacing them and outdoing them. That could mean Sarah Marshall could outdo Something About Mary on its first weekend and possibly open more along the lines of The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

Watching Sarah Marshall, it did feel a bit iffy as far as appealing to a broad audience immediately – hardcore fans of the R-rated genre will be in line for it while other people might need some convincing to give it a shot. Filthy and cruel comedy is not something everyone adores even if Sarah Marshall is as smart and sweet-natured as it is raunchy. Fans in college towns and bigger movie cities might be enthusiastic, but other areas may not really care for it so much at first. The worst case scenario would probably be the Farrelly’s terribly received Heartbreak Kid ($14 million). That movie was trying desperately to look like another variation of Something About Mary, and audiences saw right through that advertising and the movie delivered the exact same opening in much more theaters (making its debut much weaker in comparison).

I did notice in my screening of Sarah Marshall last month that the reactions weren’t clear-cut like they were during 40-Year-Old Virgin. And by that I mean, it wasn’t easy to tell how many people in the theater were truly enjoying it. There were laughs, and big laughs at some points, but the way Virgin played (which was very enthusiastically and vocally), it wasn’t hard to predict that that one was going to surprise even at first. Sarah Marshall could sleep at the box office, but that doesn’t mean its opening weekend will be strong.

Last month, Semi Pro opened with a harsh R-rating and bombed with a $15 million weekend. Ironically, that happened to be written by Scot Armstrong, who also co-wrote The Heartbreak Kid, which also failed to ignite, and both those movies were panned. With Semi Pro, though, the answer was simple: it was very R-rated and very mean and foul, and it didn't balance that formula with a sweet-natured side to appeal to broader audiences.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall balances the harshness with the sweetness, which could help it in the end. $15 - 20 million could be the range for Sarah Marshall's opening weekend in 2,700 theaters. A $100 million total isn't in the bag, but if the movie sticks around, it could definitely get close. The good news is, the movie's got time to get a crowd, which could be its saving grace.
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'Forgetting Sarah Marshall' Articles
  • Craig's Forgetting Sarah Marshall review B+
    April 19, 2008    Sex and nudity gags are the movie’s bread and butter, but like Knocked Up and Superbad, the real charm is in the personal journey of the main characters. -- Craig Younkin
  • Lee's Forgetting Sarah Marshall review B
    March 17, 2008    Sarah Marshall is a breath of fresh air in what has been a really boring movie season. -- Lee Tistaert