"Bad Boys for Life," which reunites Will Smith and Martin Lawrence on screen for the first time in 17 years in the "Bad Boys" action franchise, earned $6.36 million at the Thursday box office in pre-shows starting at 4 p.m. from 3,154 screens. It opens on 3,740+ screens this weekend.
Sony's film set a record for a preview showing in January, beating out Clint Eastwood's "American Sniper" from 2014. That film earned $5.3 million when it expanded into wide release over Martin Luther King Day weekend, and it went on to gross $100 million+ in that expansion weekend.
Sony's "Bad Boys for Life" also opens against Universal's family film "Dolittle," which stars Robert Downey Jr. as the famous doctor who discovers he can talk to animals. Both movies head into the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday as Warner Bros.' "Just Mercy" and Universal's "1917" (fresh off 10 Oscar nominations) hope to continue their strong performances in wide release.
"Bad Boys" has a lot of cult support from fans eager to see Smith and Lawrence getting together for one last ride, and the studio is estimating a $38 million four-day weekend and possibly as high as a $40 million opening against a budget of $90 million.
That budget is actually less than the massive $130 million price tag of its predecessor, Michael Bay's "Bad Boys II" from 2003. That film grossed $46.5 million in its opening weekend on its way to $273.3 million worldwide, and it's unlikely "Bad Boys for Life" matches that overall performance. But it's hoping to outperform a reboot of another Will Smith property Sony released last summer, "Men in Black: International." While Smith didn't return for that sequel, the film made $3.1 million in previews and opened to $30 million.
"Bad Boys for Life" sees Smith and Lawrence return as Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett, the once inseparable cop duo that has drifted apart and are considering retirement. But they are forced to come together once again after they are targeted for vengeance by the brother of a mob boss they defeated years ago (Jacob Scipio). Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah (Adil & Bilall) directed the film from a script by Chris Bremner, Peter Craig and Joe Carnahan. It currently has a 74% score on Rotten Tomatoes.
"Dolittle" made $925,000 in Thursday previews beginning at 5:00 p.m. from 3,050 screens and opens on 4,155 North American screens this weekend. The studio projected an opening in the low to mid $20 million range, but that was before critics saddled the family comedy with a 17% score on Rotten Tomatoes.
Downey Jr. stars in the animal extravaganza that has a reported budget of $175 million, which could put it in line to bust harder than Universal's other furry, CGI spectacle, the holiday release of "Cats." That movie made $2.6 million in previews and opened to just $6.6 million last month.
"Dolittle" stars Downey as the famed veterinarian who has the ability to talk to animals. When Queen Victoria falls gravely ill, Dolittle is reluctantly dragged out of his reclusive life to help find a cure. Harry Collett, Antonio Banderas and Michael Sheen also star alongside a voice cast that includes Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, John Cena, Kumail Nanjiani, Octavia Spencer, Tom Holland, Craig Robinson, Ralph Fiennes, Selena Gomez and Marion Cotillard. Stephen Gaghan directed the film from a script he co-wrote with Dan Gregor and Doug Mand.