Gravity's reign on top of the box office is likely going to come to an end this weekend, though it won't be at the hands of star-studded thriller The Counselor. Instead, laugh-out-loud previews and a strong brand should help Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa take the top spot with at least $25 million.
The Jackass TV show began on MTV in 2000, and was such a phenomenon that just two years later Jackass: The Movie earned $64.3 million in theaters. The big-screen franchise has improved with each outing, and 2010's Jackass 3-D took it to the next level with a massive $50.4 million debut and $117.2 million total.
In each of the Jackass movies, star Johnny Knoxville appeared in short bits as Irving Zisman, a foul-mouthed 86-year-old man who terrorized innocent bystanders in hidden camera stunts. For Bad Grandpa, Knoxville is reprising this role for a feature-length movie in which Zisman travels cross-country with his grandson. The movie mixes staged sequences with hidden camera stunts, which is reminiscent of what Sacha Baron Cohen did in 2006 hit Borat ($128.5 million).
Spin-offs almost always do less business than their predecessors, and it will be no different with Bad Grandpa. Still, the movie has a lot going for it. Previews feature all kinds of outrageous pratfalls that align nicely with the Jackass brand, and the poor behavior from Zisman and his grandson is laugh-out-loud funny (which is the key to a successful comedy). It also helps that most people have some older relative who lacks a good filter, which makes this concept highly relatable.
The marketplace is also wide open for a comedy hit—there hasn't been one since August's We're the Millers, which is now basically gone from theaters. Paramount is expecting at least high-teen-millions, though that seems like a low-ball estimate. Fandango is reporting that Bad Grandpa is currently outselling This is the End and We're the Millers through the same point in its sales cycle. Those two movies opened on a Wednesday and had earned over $33 million by the end of their first weekend; that might be a bit high for Bad Grandpa, though an opening north of $25 million seems like a lock at this point.
At 3,336 locations, The Counselor offers tons of star power and not much else. The seedy crime thriller features Michael Fassbender, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, and Brad Pitt, which is an impressive line-up that theoretically should guarantee a certain level of attendance this weekend. Unfortunately, Fassbender, Bardem and Cruz don't have any proven box office credentials, and Diaz hasn't historically had a ton of success in dramas. The Counselor does seem to be up Pitt's alley, though he's clearly a supporting player, and he wasn't able to save similar movie Killing Them Softly last year.
Aside from highlighting the stars and director (Ridley Scott), the marketing doesn't really tell audiences much else about the movie. The Counselor revolves around a drug deal gone wrong, though you'd be hard-pressed to figure that out from commercials that have vague allusions to crime, some flashes of violence, and not much else. It also doesn't help that the movie looks like a major downer, which shouldn't be a surprise given that it was written by No Country for Old Men's Cormac McCarthy.
Reviews were under a pretty tight embargo, but by late Thursday afternoon the movie had a weak 36 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. With all of these factors working against The Counselor, Fox is currently forecasting a weak $8-to-$10 million opening.
French drama Blue Is the Warmest Color, which won the Palme D'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival, opens at four locations this weekend. While it should get off to a fine start this weekend, its overall business prospects are dim. The movie is nearly three hours long, and has a restrictive NC-17 rating. Additionally, winning the Palme D'Or doesn't mean much to U.S. audiences—the last eight winners have earned an average of just $3.7 million at the U.S. box office. Forecast (Oct. 25-27) 1. Bad Grandpa - $31.3 million 2. Gravity - $23.2 million (-23%) 3. Captain Phillips - $12 million (-27%) 4. The Counselor - $8.6 million 5. Carrie - $7.4 million (-54%) Bar for Success Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa and The Counselor are both inexpensive movies with modest marketing campaigns. Still, due to the brands involved (Jackass, Ridley Scott, etc.), they both ought to be earning at least $15 million this weekend.