A Chapter of ‘Jackass’ as Web Test
LOS ANGELES — Paramount Pictures is lurching onto the Web with its “Jackass” franchise, with what it says will be the first studio-backed feature film to have its premiere online. And the studio hopes the result will be considerably more pleasurable than the old MTV show’s trademark shot to the groin — perhaps by paving the way for more profit-making Web-only material.
On Dec. 19, the studio will make “Jackass 2.5” available through Blockbuster’s Movielink service. The hour-plus film has original material and previously unseen outtakes from the second “Jackass” movie in 2006. The new movie, made for less than $2 million, will stream for free but will have 15- or 30-second commercials before and after it plays.
At the same time, the studio’s fellow subsidiary of Viacom, MTV Networks, and the creators of the “Jackass” franchise are using the new film to attract traffic to jackassworld.com, now under construction.
The site is billed as an online community offering blogs, original video content, e-commerce and an archive of the 24 episodes of “Jackass,” which ran on MTV in 2000 and 2001, as well as its longer-running spinoff “Wildboyz.”
Other studios have distributed Web-only short films (as Fox Searchlight did to promote “The Darjeeling Limited”) or teaser segments of their theatrical movies as part of promotional campaigns (as Sony did last weekend with “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story”). But Viacom executives emphasized that this was a stand-alone venture that would pay for itself.
They described the online premiere as an experiment aimed at gauging the potential revenue streams for studio-produced, longer-form Web material that could take advantage of the consumer appetite for user-generated content.
“If this works, it could open up and really change the game about additional content that studios can create,” said Thomas Lesinski, president of Paramount Pictures Digital Entertainment. Then again, Paramount executives acknowledged it might not be the fairest test of long-form films, given that the movie, like the TV show, is made up of many short segments, consumable in morsels.
It’s also hardly a big-budget test: Most of “Jackass 2.5” was shot for “Jackass: Number Two,” which took in $73 million at domestic theaters last year. (The first “Jackass,” from 2002, made $64 million at the box office.)
The new material includes opening and closing sequences and documentary-style interviews, mainly about what did not work, said Jeff Tremaine, director of the franchise’s movies. The movie is unrated, and both the complete version and its racier segments, when sold online, will be “age-gated,” with age-verification technology ensuring that consumers are 17 or older. (These methods, however, can be easily subverted.)
“There’s more vomiting, nudity and defecation,” one executive said, speaking more candidly than the companies involved had agreed to and on condition of anonymity. “The stuff that consumers really want.”
Among the movie’s new bits, executives said, are “Human Golf Tee,” in which Johnny Knoxville invites a driving-range patron to hit one off a tee on Bam Margera’s crotch, and Mr. Margera firing a bazooka round in his family’s own kitchen.
The production cost, executives said, is being recouped by a license-fee guarantee, in the low seven figures, that Blockbuster agreed to pay for a one-week exclusive.
On Dec. 26, the movie will be available on download-to-own retail sites like iTunes and Amazon.com, for $10 to $15, and a DVD — including 45 minutes of extras — will also go on sale, for $30.
Beginning Jan. 1, advertising-supported streaming sites like Joost will let viewers watch the movie, or selected bits, for free. And in February the movie will be offered through cable and satellite TV video-on-demand services. Paramount will keep 70 percent of online sales proceeds, executives said.
“We’re trying to assess here not only the potential for a broadband movie online, but also the different ways to distribute,” Mr. Lesinski said. “Within 30 days we’ll have a very good idea where the consumption is coming from.”
Keith Morrow, Blockbuster’s chief information officer, said he viewed the license fee as an investment in building awareness for the Movielink service, which Blockbuster bought from Hollywood studios (including Paramount) in August.
Mr. Tremaine said the “Jackass” creative team had retained ownership of Internet rights as part of a failed effort to exploit the dot-com boom a decade ago. He said he was more excited about jackassworld.com than the new movie, in part because it had allowed the team to go back to its origins as an outgrowth of the skateboarding magazine Big Brother, no longer published.
The community aspects of the site, however, will not let users share homemade videos of their own stunts, despite “Jackass” having spawned a limitless supply of online imitators.
“It’s always been our position that somebody should not do that at home,” said David Gale, a new-media executive at MTV Networks.