‘Jackass Forever’ pancakes ‘Moonfall’ at weekend box office

It was, in a weird way, a battle of the independents this weekend at the box office, with two unusual (and preposterous) movies duking it out for the top spot. Both involved men hurling across the sky, and audiences chose the one without greenscreen. 

The victor was the fourth in the Jackass series (sixth if you count the two “Jackass Presents” movies), “Jackass Forever.” The Jeff Tremaine-directed collection of stunts, gross-outs, and male bonding, co-produced by Spike Jonze and Jackass leader Johnny Knoxville, earned $23.5 million at the domestic box office, beating Patrick Wilson and Halle Berry in “Moonfall,” which had a dismal showing at around $10 million. 

“Jackass Forever” and its low-fidelity gag reel, with its homespun aesthetic (save for an elaborate opening bit involving kaiju tropes and Chris Pontius’s sex organ) cost but a mere $10 million, forever staying true to its indie, up-from-skater-culture roots. What’s more, the intentionally immature celebration of self-harm, pointless dares, and bee-stung perineum somehow managed to delight a wide array of critics. 

“Moonfall,” distributed by Lionsgate, was financed primarily by non-studio backers to the tune of $140 million. To hear the director and co-writer Roland Emmerich tell it, this tale of the moon coming to attack Earth has been something he’s wanted to make for ages. And despite a premise of conspiracy theories and absurd science, somehow he got NASA to help promote the movie on Instagram Live. (There’s no footprint of this now, perhaps wisely, but trust me, it happened, I saw it with my own two eyes.)

After a previous deal at Universal dissolved, Emmerich went to the Cannes film market and put together the needed money, making this one of the biggest independently produced projects in cinematic history. 

“Moonfall” barely beat “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” which has been in theaters for eight weeks already (one for each leg). The Tom Holland and Zendaya-starring picture, assuming it will accrue another $11.1 million, will surpass “Avatar” and become the third-highest domestic box office draw ever. The Marvel multiverse epic is currently the sixth-highest winner worldwide, even with the Chinese market notably absent.

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