Audiences chose “Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa” over Oscar hopefuls this weekend as Johnny Knoxville‘s raunchy comedy laughed its way to an opening estimated at $32 million.
The R-rated road-trip romp from MTV Films and Paramount took the top slot from 3D space epic “Gravity” and Tom Hanks‘ “Captain Phillips.” The awards contenders, which skew toward an older audience, had finished first and second for the past two weekends, and “Gravity” had won the last three. But this week Knoxville’s sleazy geezer tale – the first broad comedy in theaters since summer’s “We’re the Millers” – stole the show.
Warner Bros.’ Sandra Bullock-George Clooney space saga – still in 3,707 theaters, mostly 3D and Imax — continued to pull in audiences in its fourth week, rolling up $20 million over the three days and upping its domestic total to a stunning $200 million. Its weekend grosses were off just 33 percent from last week’s. “Captain Phillips” also held strongly, losing just 28 percent of its second-week audience to finish third with $11.8 million in its third week.
Another Oscar frontrunner, “12 Years a Slave,” broke into the top ten as Fox Searchlight expanded its slavery drama from 19 to 123 theaters and it brought in just over $2 million. It averaged $17,480 per-screen, by far the best of any wide release.
The weekend’s other wide opener, the star-studded Ridley Scott legal thriller “The Counselor,” finished a disappointing fourth with $8 million for Fox.
“Bad Grandpa” stars Knoxville as 86-year-old Irving Zisman, who takes his eight-year-old grandson Billy (Jackson Nicoll) on a “Borat”-like journey across America.
It doesn’t match the $50 million opening of “Jackass 3D” in 2010, but the three-day total for “Bad Grandpa” doubles its production budget. The “Jackass” franchise, drawn from creator and star Knoxville’s 2000-2001 MTV show, has been a goldmine for Paramount. The first three movies, also produced on the relative cheap, have brought in $335 million.
Most of Knoxville’s posse from the TV show and earlier films sat this one out, though Oscar-nominated director Spike Jonze returned and is a producer, along with Knoxville, director Johnny Tremaine and Derek Freda.
The “Jackass” movies have typically played young and proudly dumb, but this one attracted an audience that was 63 percent over the age of 25 and 44 percent female. By contrast, “Jackass 3D” drew a first-weekend crowd that was 67 percent under 25 and just 39 percent women.
“Jackass” movies typically drop off significantly from Friday to Saturday, but with the $1.4 million from Thursday midnight showings subtracted, “Bad Grandpa” actually improved its number on Saturday, so word of mouth helped. The critics were OK with it — it has a 63 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes — and as audiences gave it a “B” CinemaScore.
“I think what you have is movie that played more like a regular comedy than a ‘Jackass’ movie,” Paramount distribution chief Don Harris told TheWrap. “You had the branding, but this wasn’t ‘Jackass 4’ — it was a spin-off that played older and more female than those movies. We got the young audience you would presume would turn out, but it played more broadly, and that bodes well for the next few weeks.
Star power didn’t help “The Counselor,” which has a cast that includes Michael Fassbender, Cameron Diaz, Brad Pitt and Javier Bardem, and a screenplay by Cormac McCarthy (“No Country for Old Men”). It played to an older audience — 85 percent was over 25 — and was plainly hurt by the competition.
Fox had hoped to hit $10 million with the thriller, which was produced for a modest $25 million. But weak reviews – it’s at 36 percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes – and an unusually poor “D” CinemaScore were too much to overcome.
It’s the seventh wide release that has failed to hit $10 million in the last five weeks. “Don Jon,” “Baggage Claim,” “Runner Runner,” “Machete Kills,” “The Fifth Estate” and “Escape Plan” all came up short.
Sony movies – “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2” and the horror remake “Carrie” — were fifth and sixth. “Cloudy,” the only family comedy currently in theaters, took in $6.1 million and crossed $100 million domestically after five weeks. “Carrie,” from MGM and Screen Gems, was next with $5.9 million and has taken in $26 million in two weeks. The studio had hoped for more from the chiller starring Chloe Grace-Moretz, especially around Halloween.
Awards frontrunner “12 Years a Slave,” directed by Steve McQueen and written by John Ridley, continued to build momentum in its second week. It played well in art house theaters and to African-American audiences and has taken in $3.4 million in 10 days. Fox Searchlight plans to add 45 cities and up raise the theater count to more than 400 next weekend.
It finished in eighth place, just behind the Sly Stallone-Arnold Schwarzenegger prison break movie “Escape Plan,” and ahead of the romantic comedy “Enough Said” and the kidnap thriller “Prisoners.”