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‘Bad Boys,’ Great Box Office

The lastest ‘Bad Boys’ movie didn’t have the biggest opening, but it still overshot expectations by a lot.
By  · Published on January 20th, 2020

While watching Bad Boys for Life in the middle of January, I wondered why there wasn’t more of an effort to sell the sequel as a trip to Miami in the dead of winter. A virtual trip to the beaches of Southern Florida for some sun, fun, and guns. Lots and lots of guns. As it turns out, the movie didn’t need more help attracting crowds over its opening weekend. Bad Boys for Life grossed an unexpected $62.2 million over three days — and an estimated $73.4 million counting the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. For the three-day weekend, that’s 6.6 million tickets sold.

Contrary to most of the claims out there, though, it wasn’t the best debut of the franchise. Back in 2003, Bad Boys II had a bigger audience for its opening weekend. While grossing only $46.5 million in its first three days, back then that amounted to 7.7 million tickets sold. Of course, that was a summer release. Bad Boys for Life may at least have broken a record for best January opening — not counting American Sniper‘s wide release or the Star Wars Special Edition re-release. Thanks to Box Office Mojo not quickly calculating for inflation and attendance, I’m not certain, but based on the math I did, this seems true.

Even without a holiday, Bad Boys II wound up with 8.7 million tickets in its first four days. That’s a lot more than the 7.8 million tickets that Bad Boys for Life sold in its first four days (plus Thursday night previews). Depending on how you want to compare opening weekend figures, though, the 7.8 million people that Bad Boys for Life drew over its oversized weekend being near-equal to Bad Boys II‘s 7.7 million in its summertime opening weekend. Either way, it’s still much better than the original’s April debut 25 years ago.

The opening weekend gross for the first Bad Boys was only $15.5 million, by the way. That figures out to be roughly 3.6 million tickets in 1995 prices. That was well below the reported $19 million, but at the end of its run, the Michael Bay feature directorial debut was a big enough hit to warrant a follow-up. We finally got one eight years later. Bad Boys II opened well below its reported $130 million budget, too. Its total gross was barely enough for Sony to greenlight another, but 17 more years later, it’s here. Globally, Bad Boys for Life has cleared its reported $90 production cost. And so we’ll eventually get a fourth. The studio has already re-hired Bad Boys for Life screenwriter Chris Bremner for the job of scripting Bad Boys 4.

Will the next installment arrive quicker than Bad Boys sequels have in the past? Probably, and not just because of the end-credits stinger setting one up. Sony’s riding high with the response to Bad Boys for Life, which not only received the best reviews of the trilogy but is also the first and only Bad Boys movie with a positive Tomatometer score on Rotten Tomatoes (75% vs. 43% for part one and 23% for part two). Audiences love it, as well, with opening-night fans giving it an A grade via Cinemascore, which is consistent with the other two Bad Boys movies. And the audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, which includes only verified ticket buyers’ votes, is at a whopping 97% approval rate.

Also, Sony should be thrilled at how much Bad Boys for Life overshot industry expectations. Back in November, possibly thanks to so many late sequels underperforming lately, the long-range forecast at Box Office Pro had the movie opening somewhere between $21-31 million. That’s about half as what it did. Even just a few days before release, the site projected a gross of just $40 million. The actual opening weekend figure is an almost 50% increase over that prediction. With that sort of interest in an IP that nobody seemed to care about since the last entry 17 years ago, Sony would be silly not to get another into theaters soon. But hopefully, they allow Bad Boys 4 enough time to come up with a script as good as this one has.

In other box office news, Dolittle also overperformed based on last week’s forecast, which guessed only $16.5 million for the latest adaptation of Hugh Lofting’s Doctor Dolittle stories. However, its $22.5 million debut is still way short of the long-range forecast for the movie, which Box Office Pro had coming in between $30-50 million last fall. Oscar hopeful 1917, which may have just secured the Best Picture category with its PGA Awards win over the weekend, was supposed to be in second place but still seems to be hovering strongly in a way indicating it’ll still be high on the charts when Bad Boys and Dolittle decline.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.