As Hollywood pushes more and more comedies to streaming services, it seems that the era of comedies on the big screens has ended. Straight comedy films like The Hangover trilogy, Step Brothers, and Anchorman hit their highest points in the 2000s, but have since fallen out of favor with moviegoers.
But then, something shot out of left-field, challenging Hollywood’s expectations of the genre. Paramount’s over-the-top stunt-filled extravaganza Jackass Forever punched Hollywood in the groin with domestic box office returns of $23.5 million. For comparison, Roland Emmerich’s big-budget sci-fi Moonfall generated a disappointing $10 million.
So what did Jackass Forever do that many other comedies couldn’t do?
Of course, the film franchise has a built-in fanbase that has grown to love the increasingly absurd adventures for stars Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, and Wee Man along with a star-studded cast, but that is not necessarily enough to reverse a trend or kickstart a comedy renaissance at the box office. Varietyhas several takeaways from the success of Jackass Forever’sbox office that you can keep in mind for your next comedy film.
1. Comedies need to be made with a communal audience in mind.
Hollywood has decided that audiences don’t feel inclined to watch the latest films in theaters, and recent box offices would agree. Netflix, HBO Max, or premium video-on-demand rental platforms have an endless supply of films that has simply oversaturated the market.
Jackass didn’t have to worry about genre fatigue since the last big-hitting comedy was the humorous coming-of-age Good Boys back in 2019.
“Jackass Forever was tailor-made for the communal experience of the movie theater,” said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst with Comscore. He adds that the movie “represents a rare win for the genre, whose popularity in theaters has waned over the years.”
2. Studios will take risks if they don’t have to spend a lot of money.
Investing in a project means you have faith that the project will return your money and then some. If you believed comedies weren’t profitable in theaters, why would you invest a ton of money?
Jackass Forever cost a mere $10 million to produce, meaning the film is already guaranteed to make its money back in one weekend. Having a price tag that allows a little room for fatigue from the genre or the franchise allows studios to feel confident in producing a project like Jackass Forever.
Although the box office numbers for the last Jackass films proved that they can make their money back, pandemic times didn’t guarantee that people would risk getting sick to watch someone tied to a chair get honey licked off of their body by a bear. The small production budget acted as a cushion to the franchise just in case the film bombed at the box office.
'Jackass Forever'Credit: Paramount Pictures
3. Audiences are slowly coming back to the theaters.
It is no secret that the theater business has been suffering throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. While many directors and filmmakers advocate for audiences to return to the darkened theaters, the very real health concern is still present. Adult audiences were more concerned with catching COVID-19 than seeing the latest blockbuster at their local theater.
But audiences are slowly trickling back into the theaters. Ticket buyers for Jackass Forever surprised Paramount, and the film has become a surprising critical darling with chief film critic Owen Gleiberman from Varietysaying, “by the end of the film, the nutsack of half the cast members have begun to feel like family.”
4. Timing is everything.
February is the cruelest month for films. Although Jackass Forever started with a bang, the month is looking to end with a whimper. The month promises the release of Sony’s video-game adaption Uncharted, Channing Tatum’s feel-good comedy Dog, Kenneth Branagh’s murder mystery Death on the Nile, and JLo’s romantic comedy Marry Me, but none are being considered sure-fire hits.
Have we become so cynical that comedies and action-packed films just don’t do anything for us anymore?
David A. Gross, who runs a movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research, told Variety, “After building some momentum during the summer, fall, and year-end, the first four weeks of 2022 took a sharp step backward. We would like to say January is always quiet, but moviegoing is a 52-week affair now. [...] February is going to be quiet, too.”
Jackass Forever may have not done this well though if released any later. With many moviegoers wanting something to just make them laugh without having to sit through the often-cringey humor of a Marvel film, Jackass provided laughs through good ol' physical comedy and made us forget about the dumpster fire that has engulfed most of our world.
With Warner Bros. The Batmanopening in theaters in March along with the A24 slasher X, hopefully, we will see an increase in box office numbers while the number of COVID-19 cases declines.
'Jackass Forever' bucks Hollywood's expectations of the comedy genreCredit: Paramount Pictures
There is hope for the comedy genre to return to the theaters with a warm welcome. Films that are booted to streaming services deserve a chance to shine on the silver screen. Keeping these four tips in mind will be useful when you want to get your comedy in theaters.
The comedy renaissance is almost here, and I welcome it alongside my horror films and dramas. As cinephiles, all we can do is go to our local theaters to watch new releases and spread the news of good films in theaters. It is our job as filmmakers and lovers to support the work of others during these strange times.
When was the last time you watched a comedy in theaters? Let us know what it was and why it was your last in the comments below!