Why was ‘Jackass 3D’ so insanely successful?


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The wild popularity of ‘Jackass 3D’ at the box office this weekend -- the movie grossed $50 million, the biggest opening since ‘Inception’ -- will do plenty to get cultural critics going. Just why did that top keep spinning, for instance, in the enigmatic final scene?

But the movie’s box-office total, which is nearly twice the figure of the last ‘Jackass’ installment back in 2006, also gives the lie to a number of things we’d been hearing about movies in recent months.


There’s been a lot of talk of a backlash to all things Z-axis. Some of that is real, cheering at Comic-Con when filmmakers diss the format and such. But it also may be one of those cellphone syndrome things, where it seems like everyone else is talking loudly in public until you’re the one doing it.

For all the eyerolling, people still like movies in 3-D, as evidenced by the fact that, as my colleague Ben Fritz reports, it wasn’t just dollar totals that were up with the new ‘Jackass,’ but attendance figures as well. More people will come out to see a movie in 3-D than they will in 2-D, at least when it’s done in a genre that takes advantage of the medium (and flying Port-O-Potties, flatulence on command and other manner of scatological splendor certainly does).

A little distance also seemed to help. There’s a kind of pop-culture nostalgia to the MTV show, a phrase that might sound odd to, ahem, those of us above a certain age. But a 25-year-old who came out to see the movie this weekend was a sophomore in high school when the series debuted, and the prospect of watching the gang from back in the day get together for a new round of antics proved, at least from anecdotes at screenings around town, difficult to resist.

We’ve also been hearing for a while that anything we’re too familiar with from television won’t resonate on the big screen (it was used to explain the middling performance of ‘Date Night,’ which featured two prime-time stars). But name recognition can also drive ticket sales. The larger renaissance of MTV, something that hadn’t yet happened in 2006, also helped, with the movie promoted relentlessly on ‘Jersey Shore.’ And this (ginned up?) Tupac-Biggie-like squabble between Steve-O and the Situation probably didn’t hurt either.

Less discussed but maybe most important is the YouTube factor. Some wondered whether the age of the user-generated gross-out video would actually make Knoxville & Co. less relevant. Far from it. If you’ve been trying to figure out what happens to your hair and face when you stand in the wake of an idling jet plane, why not come out and see how the pros do it?

-- Steven Zeitchik


‘Jackass 3D’ tops weekend box office