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Johnny Knoxville’s ‘Bad Grandpa’ Ready to Bring Down ‘Gravity’ at the Box Office

The latest ”Jackass“ entry is on track to open north of $30M; Ridley Scott’s thriller ”The Counselor“ is looking at a soft $10M debut

Who’d have thought a sleazy codger in a shopping cart could blow the doors off Sandra Bullock and George Clooney in a rocket ship?

That’s the most likely scenario, say the analysts, who predict the 3D space blockbuster “Gravity” will fall back to Earth after three weekends atop the box office — at the hands of “Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa.” Johnny Knoxville‘s latest celebration of self-destructive stupidity will open north of $30 million for Paramount and could well go higher, they predict.

That should easily top “Gravity,” expected to land with around $20 million in its fourth week, and the week’s other wide opener, Fox’s R-rated Ridley Scott legal thriller “The Counselor,” which is looking at a soft $10 million debut.

“Bad Grandpa” was the top seller for the weekend as of Wednesday, according to online ticket broker Fandango.

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“The hearty ‘Grandpa’ sales prove that audiences are craving a good raucous comedy,” said Fandango “Weekend Ticket” host Dave Karger. “We haven’t seen such excitement for an R-rated comedy since ‘We’re the Millers.’ I wouldn’t be surprised if you see a few 86-year-old Irving Zismans at Halloween parties this year.”

“Bad Grandpa” won’t match the numbers put up by “Jackass 3D,” which opened to $54 million two years ago, but with a $15 million production budget it will be a moneymaker for the studio.

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.

This one is a departure, and the studio is calling it an original. But they’re projecting an opening of $20 million, too.

In “Bad Grandpa,” a hidden camera follows Zisman (Knoxville) on a “Borat”-like journey across America with his eight-year-old grandson Billy (Jackson Nicoll). Along the way, they bump into male strippers, crash a child beauty pageant, trash a funeral and hit a biker bar. R-rated stupidity and hilarity ensue.

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Most of Knoxville’s posse from the TV show and earlier films are sitting this one out, though Oscar-nominated director Spike Jonze returns and is a producer, along with Knoxville, director Johnny Tremaine and Derek Freda.

Paramount has found a nice slot for it. “Bad Grandpa” will be the first broad comedy to hit theaters since “The World’s End” in August, and it will be in more than 3,000 theaters.

The marketplace has been dominated by mature-skewing Oscar hopefuls, with “Gravity” and “Captain Phillips” topping the box office the past two weeks and “12 Years a Slave” and “All is Lost” rolling out in limited release.

That’s good news for “Bad Grandpa,” which will play young — and has no Oscar ambitions. But it could be bad news for “The Counselor,” which will compete with those films for older moviegoers.

counselorWith an ensemble cast topped by Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz, John Leguizamo and Javier Bardem and Scott directing an original screenplay by Cormac McCarthy, the thriller has the pedigree to be a hit.

The stars agreed to less than their regular fees for the chance to work with the director, whose last outing was the sci-fi thriller “Prometheus.” That one opened to $51 million, and took in $126 million domestically and more than $400 million worldwide for Fox last year.

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But expectations are low for “The Counselor,” which was produced for a modest $25 million. The film follows an attorney (Fassbender) who finds himself in over his head when he gets involved in some low-level drug trafficking and the glamorous life explodes with violence.

“We’d love to get to $10 million,” Fox distribution chief Chris Aronson told TheWrap, “but we have to look at the marketplace and be realistic.”

If it doesn’t, it will be the seventh wide release that has failed to hit that mark in the last five weeks. “Don Jon,” “Baggage Claim,” “Runner Runner,” “Machete Kills,” “The Fifth Estate” and “Escape Plan” all came up short.

“Gravity” will likely surrender the No. 1 spot, but the Alfonso Cuaron-directed blockbuster is expected to play strongly through the awards season and passed the $175 million mark at the domestic box office Wednesday. Worldwide, it’s about to cross $300 million.