'Knocked Up': Box Office Outlook
Knocked Up poster
By Lee Tistaert     Published May 29, 2007
In a season when the first weekend intake is what studios are clamoring for, Knocked Up has the chance of staying around. It could recapture the spirit behind There's Something About Mary?s sleeper success.
The R-rated sex comedy, "Knocked Up," opens Friday in theaters and stands as the big wildcard underdog of summer. Hailed by critics as one of the more consistently funny comedies to be released, the movie faces stiff obstacles. Not only is the Judd Apatow feature going up against Pirates of the Caribbean's second week run, but also Shrek's third week run. Although demographics for the three flicks probably won't intervene, the two tent-poles are likely to keep "Knocked Up" from even reaching a number two placement on first weekend.

As a movie about underdogs, that just may be part of Universal's intent with this raunchy feature; it could play modestly at first, and then gather a crowd with time. The movie is opening June 1 and has the entire summer to make some money, not just opening weekend. In a season when the first weekend intake is what studios are clamoring for, "Knocked Up" has the distinct chance of staying around. It could potentially recapture the spirit behind There's Something About Mary?s sleeper success, if the film doesn't surprise in the first week.

R-rated comedies are tough sells since not everyone likes crude humor. Borat had extreme pre-release buzz to help deliver its huge opening weekend ? and the success of American Pie 2 and American Wedding were a result of strong summer advertising and a built-in fan base. "Knocked Up" is mostly relying on the credit of Judd Apatow, who directed and co-wrote The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Seth Rogen is the star, and it's clear they are trying to make him into a big star after his scene-stealing performance in Virgin. However, "Knocked Up" has little star-power, whereas 40-Year-Old Virgin had Steve Carell coming off of Bruce Almighty and Anchorman. Though the reviews are hot so far, "Knocked Up" may require word of mouth to turn into a hit. But with a movie about geeks who most people would pass by normally, this could be part of the moral behind "Knocked Up" ? giving them a chance to grow. Even if the movie doesn't crack $20 million in its first week ? and worst case, even $10 million, the geeks may still get their glory in the long haul; if it is as funny as the critics say.

Budget wise, "Knocked Up" cost nothing, which means that anything they take in first week, they're in. This movie doesn't need to make $100 million to break even, although Universal definitely wouldn't be displeased with that outcome. Based on the star-power and the hard R-rating, a $100 million total may be a reach; Something About Mary still had Ben Stiller and Cameron Diaz on their up-rise in fame at the time. Most casual moviegoers probably have no idea who Seth Rogen is; but as already mentioned, that could change within weeks.

"Knocked Up" seems to have the distinct feel of a comedy that could play best in the big cities where edgy comedy is openly welcomed. As was witnessed with the big-screen adaptation of South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, that movie drew rave reviews from critics only to make $11 million in three days and $20 million in five (over 4th of July weekend, 1999). In the big cities, the movie played like gangbusters, especially in college towns. South Park, along with Trey Parker and Matt Stone's R-rated Team America, were "clique" flicks ? meaning, there was an exclusive group who wanted that brand of foul comedy rabidly. Outside the big cities, those movies just weren't in demand.

The 40-Year-Old Virgin debuted with $21 million, and "Knocked Up" is opening in the same theater count range. Compared to Wedding Crashers, which was R-rated and had two big stars, a $30 million bow seems to be a bit out there. It's opening on the same day that The Break-Up debuted last year, but that was also PG-13 and had an ideal onscreen duo. "Knocked Up" seems to be a big middle finger to a movie like that, which means the chances of a breakout performance aren't great. The two movies that Knocked Up seem to parallel are Something About Mary and the original American Pie, which opened to $13.7 million and $18.7 million, respectively. American Pie didn?t have star-power but succeeded based on the mysterious R-rating on a teen comedy; the marketing, which compared it to all the other big summer releases, worked in its favor. Knocked Up hasn?t been playing that game in the marketing, but its strong online buzz could push it in that direction. This is one of the more fascinating flicks to figure out in terms of where this thing will come up on the radar.
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'Knocked Up' Articles
  • Lee's Knocked Up review B
    June 3, 2007    This is a supreme guy movie with an onslaught of juvenile gags, but [it] also succeeds as a chick flick. It's an R-rated cult comedy and a crowd pleaser. -- Lee Tistaert