The Movie: 'Jackass 3D', the third film in the popular franchise that spun off the successful MTV series of the same name. Like its predecessors, 'Jackass 3D' is a loose compilation of skits, sketches and stunts, some involving dwarfs, starring goofballs Johnny Knoxville, Chris Pontius, and Steve-O, and directed by franchise originator Johnny Tremaine. For the first time, the fluids, bees (!), and little people go flying in three dimensions.
The Target Audience: Teenagers; college kids; audiences eager to watch idiots hurt themselves; fans of the prior films and people who grew up on the TV show – which, it's easy to forget, began airing ten years ago. All kidding aside, 'Jackass' has become a remarkably enduring pop culture phenomenon.
The Competition: The somewhat demographically challenged retired-secret-agent action comedy 'Red', which nonetheless performed reasonably well in second place. 'The Social Network' was the strongest holdover, followed by mostly family fare and rom-coms. A well-chosen weekend to open 'Jackass 3D'. More details about the weekend's box office are in our Box Office Report here.
The Number: $50 million on 3,081 screens – holy crap! That's the highest opening weekend gross for any movie in September or October, ever. It is the ninth highest opening weekend gross for an R-rated film, ever. It is roughly equivalent to the opening weekend grosses of the first two 'Jackass' films combined, improving on its direct predecessor by a full $20 million.
It's hard to say what is responsible for this rather remarkable surge. All three movies debuted on fairly weak weekends in the fall; in fact, 'Jackass 3D' opened against by far the highest-grossing runner-up film. As far as I know, nothing has happened in the four years since 'Jackass Number Two' to elevate the franchise in the zeitgeist. Though the ubiquity of the 3D format is still likely to fade in the coming months, it's possible that this is where 3D really shines as a marketing tool: with movies where it can unabashedly be a gimmick. That plus a strong advertising push might have put 'Jackass 3D' over the top.
Another, even more speculative explanation is that the 'Jackass' franchise may be breaking still further into the mainstream. The plural of anecdote is not data, but I have never had so many of my friends and acquaintances – hardly the film's target audience according to the conventional wisdom – actively want to see a 'Jackass' film. I don't know why, but it seems like ten years after first hitting it big, 'Jackass' has hit it even bigger.
Staying Power: The prior two films both took fairly steep tumbles, and the third film is likely to do the same despite the stronger start. 'Paranormal Activity 2' should suck away some of its business next weekend. $120 million is where 'Jackass 3D' is likely to end up – almost $50 million beyond its predecessors.
Are you one of the people who hasn't seen the previous 'Jackass' films but went to see this one? If so, why?