Thompson on Hollywood
Thompson on Hollywood

Two escapist comedies launched at Comic-Con surged to unexpected box office heights for October as Jackass 3D and ensemble action comedy Red grossed an estimated $50 million and $22.5 million, respectively, reports Anthony D'Alessandro:

This weekend, Paramount pulled off its biggest stunt without even jumping the shark: Resuscitating a franchise based on a 10-year old reality stunt MTV show.
The R-rated Jackass 3D collected an eye-boggling $50 million from 3,081 theaters, making it the highest domestic opening ever for both an October release and the franchise overall. Meanwhile, those adults with weak stomachs for Jackass 3D chose Summit Entertainment’s PG-13 geriatric C.I.A. actioner Red, shelling out a notable $22.5 million at 3,255.

Both studios watched their wallets: Paramount spent $20 million to open Jackass 3D while Summit also maintained a $20 million exposure on Red’s $58 million pricetag after foreign territory sales.

Word-of-mouth is sustaining three holdovers. Disney breathed a sigh of relief as Secretariat rounded its second lap with a 25% slip – a much needed hold as the studio shapes up the equestrian drama for award season. David Fincher's The Social Network remained afloat with a 29% dip.  And Ben Affleck's The Town continued to grow, pushing its cume past $80 million.

After several adult-themed films flooded the market recently, this weekend belonged to the guys, specifically comic book aficionados: Both entries’ success were boosted by launches at Comic-Con, where they were embraced by fans.

Timing was on the side of Jackass 3D.  Paramount was able to tap into the zeitgeist of a franchise before it turned stale among its millennial fanbase. Despite the media’s complaints about Hollywood releasing too many films in 3-D, the visual format aided Jackass 3D, with its in-your-face, don’t-do-this-at-home stunts.  Paramount will release 3-D share estimates on Monday. Critics weren’t jaded toward Jackass 3D; they awarded it a 66% fresh. The audience split was 60/40 male to female, with 67% under 25. Cinemascore: B+.

To raise awareness on Jackass 3D among teens and twentysomethings, Paramount toured the film's cast to college campuses, while sister network MTV aired two specials commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Johnny Knoxville stunt show.  Also, they hit their target demo head on by getting the Jersey Shore cast to discuss the film, much the way Sony deployed a similar publicity ploy for The Other Guys this past summer. Jackass 3D outstripped 2003’s Scary Movie 3, October’s previous high opener at $48.1 million.  The film also clocked the second best R-rating opening for a post Labor Day release after 8 Mile’s $51.2 million.

While many cult comic-book movies failed to open this year--Kick-Ass ($19.8 million), Losers ($9.4 million) and Jonah Hex ($5.4 million) among them-- Hollywood has turned lesser-known niche brands such as Men in Black into hits. So what made Red, based on a violent DC title, resonate? According to exit polls, audiences loved Red's over-the-hill gang--Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman and John Malkovich--promoed in hysterical high-octane trailers. Warm receptions at Comic-Con and Fantastic Fest raised Red’s profile and rounded out Summit’s marketing plan. Its overall Tomatometer rating was a surprisingly high 70% fresh, with an A- Cinemascore.  Audience split was 53% males/47% females, with 58% over 35.  73% of the crowd said they would definitely recommend others to see Red.

Summit domestic distribution president Richard Fay points out that winning adults over with Red is quite an accomplishment, particularly with a high Cinemascore, since it's not the type of film they typically flock toward. “The adult audience is a discerning one and not impulsive like younger moviegoers. They sit back and wait on whether they want to see a film. We knew who our audience was when we marketed the film. Not lost in this film’s success is Helen Mirren who got women to come out and see her in a role that she hasn’t been in before.”

Among the notable limited releases scheduled to go wide next weekend, Warner Bros. unspooled Clint Eastwood’s supernatural drama Hereafter, starring Matt Damon, at six venues in New York, Los Angeles and Toronto for a $231,000 till and a robust per-engagement of $38,426. Warners has long bowed Eastwood’s award season fare in a handful of cities before going wide. Hereafter grossed less than Eastwood's other arthouse openings, 2003’s Mystic River ($641,000) and 2008’s Changeling ($489,000), only because it was in fewer theaters. Many of Eastwood’s award films have capped their domestic runs in the $30 million range in recent years and the question is whether Hereafter will have legs: with a boost from Oscar, both Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby played past $90 million.

The indie weekend box office wrap-up is here.
The top 10 films are as follows:
1. Jackass 3D (Paramount): $50 million in its first weekend at 3,081 theaters.  $16,228 theater average. Domestic total: $50 million.
2.Red (Summit): $22.5 million in its first weekend at 3,255 theaters. $6,912 theater average.  Domestic total: $22.5 million.
3. The Social Network (Sony): $11 million down 29% in its third weekend at 2,868 theaters.  $3,835 theater average. Domestic total: $63.1 million.
4. Secretariat (Disney):$9.5 million down 25% in its second weekend at 3,072 theaters.  $3,093 theater average.  Domestic total: $27.5 million.
5. Life As We Know It (Warner Bros.): $9.2 million down 37% in its second weekend at 3,150 theaters. $2,921 theater average.  Domestic total: $28.9 million.
6. Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (Warner Bros.): $4.2 million down 39%  in its fourth weekend at 2,502 theaters.  $1,693 theater average.  Domestic total: $46 million.
7. The Town (Warner Bros.): $4.04 million down 37% in its fifth weekend at 2,368 theaters.  $1,706 theater average.  Domestic total: $80.6 million.
8. My Soul to Take (Rogue Picture/Universal):$3.2 million down 54% in its second weekend at 2,529 theaters. $1,250 theater average. Domestic total: $11.9 million.
9. Easy A (Sony/Screen Gems): $2.65 million down 38% in its fifth weekend at 2,314 theaters.  $1,145 theater average.  Domestic total: $52.3 million.
10. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (Fox): $2.35 million down 49% in its fourth weekend at 2,045 theaters.  $1,149 theater average. Domestic total: $47.9 million.