JACKASS POSTS BIGGER NUMBERS THAN FORECAST

After reminding us earlier of H.L. Mencken's line about nobody ever going broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public, entertainment writers observed Monday that Paramount had underestimated the members of the public who bought tickets to see Jackass Number Two over the weekend. The film did not make a whopping $28.1 million as originally predicted but an even more whopping $29 million. Jet Li's Fearless debuted in second place with $10.6 million. Two other movies opening in wide release were disappointments. MGM's Flyboys barely got off the ground with just $6 million to place fourth, while Sony's All the King's Men had a great fall with just $3.67 million to place seventh.

The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):

1. Jackass: Number Two, Paramount, $29,002,002, (New); 2. Jet Li's Fearless (Huo Yuan Jia), Focus Features, $10,590,244, (New); 3. Gridiron Gang, Sony, $9,456,617, 2 Wks. ($26,957,657); 4. Flyboys, MGM, $6,004,219, (New); 5. Everyone's Hero, 20th Century Fox, $4,690,466, 2 Wks. ($11,534,837); 6. The Black Dahlia, Universal, $4,449,985, 2 Wks. ($17,270,675); 7. All The King's Men, Sony, $3,672,366, (New); 8. The Illusionist, Yari Film Group, $3,333,383, 6 Wks. ($27,592,197); 9. The Covenant, Screen Gems, $3,178,953, 3 Wks. ($20,183,768); 10. Little Miss Sunshine, Fox Searchlight, $2,821,315, 9 Wks. ($50,286,378).

REDSTONE TAKES PAY CUT

Weeks after hiring Philippe Dauman and Thomas Dooley to replace Tom Freston as head of Viacom and hinging their salaries to company performance, Sumner Redstone, the company's executive chairman, has agreed to a similar plan that will reduce his cash salary and bonuses and link most of his compensation to increased shareholder returns. Redstone, one of the country's highest-paid company executives, will receive a guaranteed $1 million a year in salary, down from $1.75 million, will give up $1.3 million in deferred compensation and see his $6.1 million in cash bonuses cut to $3.5 million. He also agreed to convert $9.4 million in accumulated deferred compensation to stock option equivalents. Today's (Tuesday) New York Times described Redstone's salary cutbacks as "yet another effort to restore investor confidence" in Viacom

FAST AND THE FURIOUS OUT TODAY ON DVD AND ON WEB

Universal has become the first studio to release a film on DVD and for downloading on the Internet on the same day. The movie, The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift, will be priced at just $9.99, and, unlike other movies that have been made available for downloading, this one can be burned to a disc and played on a standard DVD player. The downloadable version is being released by CinemaNow, which has been encouraging other studios to agree to a similar deal. Studios have traditionally been wary of allowing their movies to be transferred to discs, fearing that doing so could lead to rampant piracy. However, CinemaNow recently acquired technology that prevents downloaded movies burned to discs from being copied.

A LEGAL WAY TO CENSOR MOVIES?

San Francisco-based Cuts Inc. has unveiled a software product, which it is offering free, that will allow individuals to censor their own movies "legally." In a statement, the company said, "With the Cuts Player and Cuts' online Directory service, users can post their own edits, as well as navigate through a variety of categories and lists of popular Cuts made by others." What makes the system legal, the company claims, "is that the edits people make never alter the original video. Instead, Cuts generates a set of instructions, called "Cutlists, which implement the edits on the fly any time the video is played back with the Cuts Player software. Viewers must have the original video in order to view the edited version." In July, a court ruled against CleanFlicks, a company that edited DVDs to remove sex scenes and bad language on the grounds that it caused "irreparable injury to the creative artistic expression in the copyrighted movies."

SAG TO HONOR JULIE ANDREWS

The Screen Actors Guild will honor Julie Andrews with its Life Achievement Award at the 13th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards ceremony in January, the guild announced Monday. In a statement, SAG President Alan Rosenberg said that Andrews, who won an Oscar for her performance in the title role of 1964's Mary Poppins, "embodies and transcends the memorable roles she has created. ... I believe it is exceptionally significant to be recognized by people who do the same work you do."

SOFT-PORN PRODUCER PAYS FINES, STAYS OUT OF JAIL

Two days after being featured in an hour-long NBC Dateline documentary, Joe Francis, producer of the Girls Gone Wild sex videos, pleaded guilty Monday to violating federal record-keeping laws by failing to document the ages of the women featured in the videos. Under a plea agreement, Francis agreed to personally pay a $500,000 fine; earlier this month his Mantra Films agreed to pay an additional $1.6 million in fines. During Saturday's Dateline feature, Francis told reporter Keith Morrison: "I've been a target of lawsuits ... and other accusations and ridiculous things in the past." Asked specifically about hiring underage girls, he replied, "Well, some girl showing a fake ID? If somebody shows you a fake ID, you have every reason to believe that they're that age." On Monday, his lawyer, Aaron Dyer told reporters, "No 17-year-old will ever be allowed to lie to Mantra films to appear on camera again."

MOVIE MOVES FRENCH PRESIDENT

Demonstrating anew the power of motion pictures to effect political change, French President Jacques Chirac is expected to restore full pensions to the 80,000 North African troops who fought for the country against the Germans after France was liberated in August 1944. According to today's (Tuesday) London Times, Chirac made the decision, which will cost more than $190 million, after viewing the film Indigènes (Days of Glory), which describes how some 250,000 colonial soldiers were used as cannon fodder and were neglected after France withdrew from Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria after the war. Hamlaoui Mekachera, France's Minister for Veterans, who is of Algerian origin, told the Times that Chirac was moved by the film. "There is an obvious injustice. We must put an end to it," he said.

Brian B.