Jackass: The Movie kicked major ass at the box office, butting into theaters with $22.8 million.

That makes the big-screen version of MTV's reckless slapstick series, featuring Johnny Knoxville and his masochistic gross-out gang of pooping pranksters and sick stunters, the third best October opener of all time.

Distributor Paramount did not screen the R-rated flick for critics, who wound up excoriating the don't-try-this-at-home antics anyway. That didn't stop the show's core audience from showing up, however. About two-thirds of Jackass moviegoers were male, three-quarters of whom were under 25. You wouldn't think anyone else would admit to going, but Van Toffler, president of MTV Films, told Reuters that exit polls indicated the women who did show up loved the movie as much as the men.

"We produced a good mindless escape for the weekend," said Toffler. MTV had spent only $5 million to make the so-called movie, and, reportedly, had only expected it to debut with about $15 million.

The coarse comedy and rash action, which scares the family-values groups, proved much more appealing than the standard spooky stuff studios toss out at this time of year. The Jackass arrival pushed last week's number one, The Ring, down to second place with $18.5 million and kept the new supernatural horror story Ghost Ship to a third place debut of only $11.5 million.

In fourth place, Sweet Home Alabama proved that a big gross can be sweet, becoming the 16th movie this year to pass the $100 million mark. The popular Reese Witherspoon romantic comedy earned another $6.5 million to bring its five-week total to $107.3 million.

Opening in 2,509 theaters, Jackass averaged $9,073. In comparison, The Ring averaged $7,019. But DreamWorks put the film in an additional 663 sites from last week to bring The Ring to 2,634 theaters, boosting its haul 23 percent from its opening weekend for an overall tally of $39.4 million. At more theaters--2,787--the R-rated Warners Ghost Ship, starring Julianna Margulies and Gabriel Byrne, only averaged a wispy $4,128.

Adam Sandler and Emily Watson's romantic drama Punch-Drunk Love averaged an impressive $6,878 as it widened to 481 sites and moved from 15th to seventh place. Its 123 percent gain in its third week of carefully platformed release brought in an estimated $3.5 million, pushing its current total to $5.9 million and stirring buzz for the upcoming awards season.

Six new movies opened in limited release. The most successful was Frida, a biopic of the fierce-browed Mexican artist Frida Kahlo as portrayed by Salma Hayek under the elaborate direction of Julie Taymor. The R-rated Miramax release averaged a flashy $41,199 at just five theaters for $206,000.

Also grabbing attention was Roger Dodger, starring Campbell Scott as a charming cynical womanizer. The R-rated Artisan release averaged a decent $11,858 at four screens for $47,000.

Dimension's R-rated hip-hop drug-pusher drama Paid in Full averaged a quick fix $4,958 at 268 sites for $1.3 million.

MGM/UA's R-rated All or Nothing, Mike Leigh's latest probe into drab British lives, averaged an okay $3,699 at seven sites for $26,000.

Universal's PG-13 The Truth About Charlie, the update of Charade in which Mark Wahlberg and Thandie Newton had hoped to convince us they have the charm of Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, averaged a mild $3,015 at 752 sites for $2.3 million.

And Miramax's R-rated Waking Up in Reno, a hicks on vacation trip starring Billy Bob Thornton, Charlize Theron, Natasha Richardson and Patrick Swayze, averaged a loser $553 at 197 sites for $109,000.

Overall, the top 12 films grossed $86.7 million, up 18 percent from last week and 20 percent from this time last year.

Here is how the top 10 stacked up, according to final studio figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations:

1. Jackass: The Movie, $22.8 million
2. The Ring, $18.5 million
3. Ghost Ship, $11.5 million
4. Sweet Home Alabama, $6.5 million
5. My Big Fat Greek Wedding, $6.2 million
6. Red Dragon, $4.7 million
7. Punch-Drunk Love, $3.3 million
8. The Transporter, $2.81 million
9. Brown Sugar, $2.78 million
10. Jonah: A Veggie Tales Movie, $2.75 million

(Originally published 10/27/02 at 1:10 p.m. PT.)

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