Box Office Preview: Can 'Jackass: Bad Grandpa' Out-Gross 'Gravity'?

All of Hollywood is placing bets on whether Paramount and MTV Films' spinoff Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa -- featuring Johnny Knoxville and sidekick Jackson Nicoll -- will be the one to end Gravity's impressive box-office reign.

Paramount is predicting an opening in the $16 million to $20 million range -- well below the last two Jackass films -- while rivals believe Bad Grandpa could approach or cross $30 million, considering the strength of the gross-out franchise. One Paramount insider counters that Bad Grandpa is tracking relatively in line with Carrie, which debuted to $16.1 million last weekend (many also thought Carrie would cross $30 million).

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Gravity, heading into its fourth weekend with a domestic cume of $177.2 million, could earn $20 million or more. The Warner Bros. film has turned into a box-office sensation, earning north of $300 million to date.

Bad Grandpa, the first Jackass film to have any sort of plot, stars Knoxville as signature character Irving Zisman, a crotchety 86-year-old, and Nicoll as 8-year-old grandson Billy. The outrageous duo embark on a hidden-camera road trip across America, performing stunts and punking people. Along the way they encounter, among others, male strippers, disgruntled child beauty pageant contestants and bikers.

Jeff Tremaine returns to directs, and produces alongside Knoxville, Spike Jonze and Derek Freda.

Knoxville is the only Jackass regular to appear in the film, which Paramount stresses is a spinoff and cost a modest $15 million to produce. It opens three years after Jackass 3D debuted to a sizzling $50.4 million. Jackass: Number Two opened to $29 million in late September 2006. The first Jackass, opening in late October 2002, debuted to $22.8 million.

The weekend's other new nationwide offering is Ridley Scott's star-packed drama The Counselor, from an original screenplay by No Country for Old Men author Cormac McCarthy (his first). The 20th Century Fox film may only get to $10 million in its North American debut despite stars Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem and Brad Pitt. It may fare better overseas, where it begins rolling out this weekend in a handful of markets, including Brazil.

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The Counselor, starring Fassbender as a greedy lawyer who gets caught up with drug traffickers, has received mostly negative reviews. Insiders say the film was a vanity project for Scott, but that it reportedly cost only $25 million to make, with talent taking a drastically reduced fee in order to work with Scott.

Scott, who has longtime ties to Fox, last directed Prometheus for the studio.

The Counselor opens at a time of major transition for Fox's domestic marketing operation, which has suffered a string of box-office disappointments. Last week, studio CEO/chairman Jim Gianopulos put international presidents Paul Hanneman and Tomas Jegeus in charge of worldwide marketing and showed domestic marketing co-president Oren Aviv the door. Tony Sella, the other co-president, said he was resigning, but then had a change of heart. His fate remains unclear. Sella now reports to Jegeus and Hanneman, instead of Gianopulos.

The big headline at the specialty box office is Abdellatif Kechiche's French film Blue Is the Warmest Color, which IFC Films launches in New York and Los Angeles. The steamy lesbian drama is rated NC-17, meaning that no one under 17 is allowed in. However, the IFC Center in New York has announced it will allow in teenagers it deems appropriate, regardless of age.

In recent days, the war of words between Kechiche and star Lea Seydoux has escalated, with the filmmaker calling her an "arrogant, spoiled child" who said "slanderous" things about him in an effort to gain attention following the film's Palme d’Or win at the Cannes Film Festival in May. "Thus after having been celebrated and glorified thanks to the Palme d’Or won by Blue Is the Warmest Color, she started to drag me through the mud with lies and exaggerations," he said in an interview earlier this week.

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