By Lisa Richwine and Chris Michaud
LOS ANGELES/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Prankster comedy "Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa" kicked Sandra Bullock's 3D space thriller "Gravity" from the top of weekend box office charts in the United States and Canada, starting off with $32 million in ticket sales over its first three days.
After three weeks in first place, "Gravity" slipped to the No. 2 slot with $20.3 million in domestic ticket sales, according to studio estimates on Sunday. "Captain Phillips," starring Tom Hanks in the real-life story of a ship hijacked by Somali pirates, finished in third place, collecting $11.8 million.
"Bad Grandpa" stars "Jackass" comedian Johnny Knoxville in disguise as an 86-year-old man who travels across the United States with his 8-year-old grandson, pulling pranks on unsuspecting people they encounter on the way.
The movie follows three earlier "Jackass" films inspired by an MTV television show, creating a low-budget film franchise that pulled in a combined $254 million in worldwide ticket sales. The latest installment cost $15 million to make.
Box office forecasters had predicted "Bad Grandpa" would debut with about $25 million at domestic theaters, while executives said studio projections ran as high as the low 20-millions.
"It's a spectacular result," said Don Harris, Paramount's president of theatrical distribution, adding that the movie was "playing much more like a regular comedy than like a 'Jackass' movie," with audiences comprised of more women and older moviegoers than the previous "Jackass" film.
"The audience wasn't just a bunch of teenagers," Harris said, noting that the film "is not 'Jackass 4,' it's a spinoff" of the franchise.
"Gravity," this fall's hit at the box office, stars Bullock and George Clooney as astronauts stranded in space. Propelled by rave reviews for its special effects, "Gravity" was closing in on $200 million in domestic receipts, distributor Warner Bros. said, with well over another $100 million internationally.
Despite an A-list cast including Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender, new crime drama "The Counselor" debuted further down the charts, in fourth place with $8 million. The movie, written by novelist Cormac McCarthy, stars Fassbender as a Texas lawyer involved in a drug deal gone awry. Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz, and Penelope Cruz also star.
"The Counselor" received only a lukewarm response from critics. As of Saturday, only 35 percent recommended the film in reviews collected on the Rotten Tomatoes website. The movie was produced for a modest $25 million, according to the Box Office Mojo website.
Chris Aronson, president of domestic distribution for 20th Century Fox, said the results were "pretty much in line with our expectations," adding that "we're in an unusually competitive environment" but that the film saw "good grosses in big city, core runs" which he expected to be the film's target audience.
Horror remake "Carrie" brought in $5.9 million to fall into sixth place, behind the animated hit "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2," which came in fifth with $6.1 million. "Carrie" stars Chloe Grace Moretz as the shy girl who wreaks havoc on her tormentors by using telekinetic powers to destroy her high school prom.
Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom Inc, released "Bad Grandpa." "Gravity" was distributed by Warner Bros., a unit of Time Warner Inc. Sony Corp's movie studio released "Captain Phillips" and "Carrie." "The Counselor" was distributed by 20th Century Fox, the movie studio owned by 21st Century Fox.
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine and Chris Michaud; Editing by Will Dunham)