Like the highly unsafe unleashing of a scorpion in the name of stunt-related comedy, things didn't go as planned for "Jackass 3D" at the box office. But whereas the scorpion stunt nearly made a grown man soil himself, the new movie itself performed far, far better than initially predicted.
"Jackass 3D" opened to $50 million in ticket sales, far out-performing estimates that had Johnny Knoxville's flick grossing in the $30 million range. So how did it do so well, and why did everyone get their estimates so wrong?
"I think that a couple recent 3-D duds served to hinder expectations," said Phil Contrino, editor of BoxOffice.com. "But this opening proves that if 3-D is paired with content that moviegoers are interested in, then the results will be healthy."
And when audiences are not interested, well, you get something like "Piranha 3D," which promised bloody scares and three-dimensional breasts, then limped through opening weekend with just $10.1 million in box-office business. "Jackass," too, hyped heavy 3-D effects in its marketing campaign, but benefited from the familiarity of its brand, established after the MTV show and two previous theatrical releases.
"Johnny Knoxville and crew have evidently pleased their audience consistently over the years," noted Brandon Gray of Box Office Mojo. "Being perceptually bound seems to have made 'Jackass' a perfect fit for 3-D. With the promise of outrageous things flying out of the screen at viewers and a more immersive view of the stunts, 'Jackass' advertised a lot of 3-D bang for the buck, as opposed to the subtle effects of other 3-D movies."
Many box-office prognosticators assumed that, more than a decade after the TV show premiered, the size of the "Jackass" audience was fixed. But this weekend's b.o. numbers indicate the third flick attracted new crowds.
"Based on the last 'Jackass' films, and adjusting for today's ticket prices and 3-D surcharges, it made sense for this new installment to reach a certain limit. But an opening of $50 million means that the fanbase grew," said Gitesh Pandya of Box Office Guru, adding, "Six of the last seven 3-D movies did not become big hits at the box office, so we've now seen that audiences will not pay extra for just anything with an extra dimension tacked on. But audiences showed that 'Jackass' was a brand worth paying extra for."
The $50 million total, if it stands after final numbers trickle in, will become a new fall opening record, beating out "Scary Movie 3" and its $48.1 million gross in 2003. "Scary Movie" retains the record for total fall opening attendance, though, as "Jackass 3D" soared because of the inflated price of its 3-D tickets: Such showings accounted for close to 90 percent of business, according to Box Office Mojo.
"Jackass 3D" also notched the record for an October midnight gross with $2.5 million. That speaks to the fact that the movie became somewhat of an event, a reason for moviegoers to head to the theater as a group. "Ultimately I think 'Jackass 3-D' is a huge success because it is a movie that needs to be experienced with other people," Contrino said. "There's nothing like watching a comedy in a packed theater, and a lot of the fun comes from recounting the stunts with friends after you've seen the movie."
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