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‘Bad Boys for Life’ Soars; ‘Dolittle’ 4-Day Total Tops ‘Cats’ Entire Gross

Is 2020 box office on a roll? Led by Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, this weekend bested 2019 by more than 20%.

“Bad Boys for Life”

An improved 2020 continued this weekend, with the initial $160 million three-day estimate over $30 million (about 22%) above last year’s Martin Luther King Birthday Friday-to-Sunday totals.

The difference comes from two new releases. “Bad Boys for Life” (Sony) opened at just over $59 million, $19 million better than “Glass,” which was the sole new wide opener last year. Universal super-costly “Dolittle” as a second studio opener took care of the rest of the gap, with plenty to spare.

All this came on the weekend after Oscar nominations, which (for once) benefited the holiday results. It was an uneven bounty, with the second wide week of “1917” (Universal) leading the way, “Little Women” (Sony) boosted, and several titles like “Parasite” (Neon) and “Jojo Rabbit” (Searchlight) rebounding.

“Bad Boys” and “Dolittle” each did at least a little better than expectations — the former, substantially so, while the latter avoided a complete debacle after devastating reviews. Each does give some signs, if confused, about some current trends.

“Bad Boys for Life”

Explanations are in order when the guess was a $40 million weekend for “Bad Boys.” The holiday has had one breakout historic result in Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper.”

January is considered a secondary month for top releases, and”Bad Boys” at $90 million is one of the more expensive to get this date (though it pales compared to “Dolittle,” by far the costliest ever January film).

Most Sony gambles of late have worked —see “Little Women,” and on Christmas Day, the “Jumanji” reboot as two prime cases — but this one worried some because other recent relaunchings of franchises have seen shaky reactions (their own “Charlie’s Angels” and Men in Black: International,” “Terminator” in November) and Will Smith as the top draw in an action genre title after “Gemini Man” died raised questions.

What seems to have boosted this is timing: It arrives after an extended period of no high-end action films aimed at a big part of the mainstream domestic movie audience — particularly black and Latino as well as overall younger (17-25 year-olds) who make up the bulk of the ticket buying audience.

Throw in Sony’s typical outside-the-box creative team choices (the co-directors are two Belgian collaborators whose early work caught their eye) and then elevating the plot and tone to resemble what has made the “Fast and Furious” and “Mission: Impossible” (and Bond films before that) popular. Throw in a good release date and good things happened. Oh, it got an A Cinemascore, so not only was interest elevated, but it delived. Extra bonus: it added another $40 million in foreign dates so far (multiple yet to open) so this might be headed for a multi-hundred million worldwide total.

“Dolittle”

Comparisons can be fun, if misleading. After the complete debacle of their ill-begotten “Cats” at Christmas, at least their twice-as-expensive “Dolittle” is doing better. The musical dud will fall shy of $28 million domestic (unless it gets revived as a midnight camp classic) and that’s where “Dolittle” should be through Monday.

And, it somewhat surprisingly seems to have edged out weekend two of “1917,” so that again beats the alternative. But let’s not kid anyone. This is a disaster, which at its $175 million budget might end up losing Universal more money than “Cats.” (Sadly for them, “1917” is a distribution deal, with separate financing and thus profit participation by DreamWorks and Amblin Productions).

The “Cats” connection gets worse. Its Christmas showcasing (to try to catch an awards wave and replicate earlier “Greatest Showman” and “Les Miserables” successes) precluded this from opening on that date. The initial gross suggests interest; had it gone then, the results ultimately might have been substantially larger. Not likely to propel into profit, but at least lessen the blow.

Credit Robert Downey and his consistent appeal in recent years, with his Marvel efforts helping the cause. But after three shots at the iconic talking animal story, the “Dolittle” concept is likely consigned to history for a long time. That’s not what was expected when this was made. Studios don’t invest this much without the hope that it will be the start of something big. Not this (third) time.

“1917”

Universal Pictures

Sam Mendes and company are doing fine with $76 million in – likely to double at least – domestically. It has an additional $62 million in 37 territories so far, with fairly consistent performances most countries.

Minor caveat is that though it had multiple factors helping it this weekend – particularly the Oscar nominations last Monday, as well as some additional theaters – it dropped 40%. That’s a decent second week, but it is double what “The Revenant” – the last top-end Best Picture contender to be in a similar position – dropped after its nominations, and from an initially higher gross. That could suggest this is a bit more of a niche film (as its decent but not spectacular A- Cinemascore suggested among general audiences).

Quibble indeed. All other contenders would love to be in its shoes, both for awards hopes and the money it will make ahead.

Just Mercy

“Just Mercy”

Falling slightly less (recall its A+ Cinemscore) and not getting an Oscar boost was “Just Mercy.” The Michael B. Jordan/Jamie Foxx legal drama fell 38%. It is never going to be a breakout success, but at this point could see its way into the $40 million+ range of “Harriet” recently, then particularly with its cast have elevated interest as it reaches other platforms. And for Warners, which went through a series of drama-based duds last year, it’s a decent turnaround.

“Jumanji: The Next Level” (Sony) went ahead of “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” (Disney) for the first time, with a 32% drop (good for #4) compared to the latest “Star Wars” entry falling 45%. The latter continues to track to a $520 million domestic haul, down $100 million from “The Last Jedi” while still obviously a major success.

The two best Top Ten holds belong to “Little Women” (down 24%, with a PTA consistent with last weekend after dropping weak performing dates) and Lionsgate’s “Knives Out” at the same level of drop. These are two ultimate $100 million+ performers (both also with foreign appeal) that will encourage more lower-end of midbudget titles from studios.

Last weekend’s newbies “Like a Boss” (Paramount) and “Underwater” (Disney) put themselves further on track for early extinction. The Paramount comedy ranked higher with a bigger – 61% – drop, while the Fox sea creature film saw a 49% drop, enough to fall short of the Top Ten.

The Top Ten

1. Bad Boys for Life (Sony) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Metacritic: 59; Est. budget: $90 million

$59,175,000 in 3,775 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $15,675; Cumulative: $59,175,000

2. Dolittle (Universal)  NEW – Cinemascore: B; Metacritic: 27; Est. budget: $175 million

$22,530,000 in 4,155 theaters; PTA: $5,422; Cumulative: $22,530,000

3. 1917 (Universal) Week 4; Last weekend #1

$22,140,000 (-40%) in 3,612 theaters (+178); PTA: $6,130; Cumulative: $76,757,000

4. Jumanji: The Next Level (Sony) Week 6; Last weekend #3

$9,565,000 (-32%) in 3,323 theaters (-581); PTA: $2,878; Cumulative: $270,478,000

5. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Disney) Week 5; Last weekend #2

$8,374,000 (-45%) in 3,058 theaters (-1,221); PTA: $2,738; Cumulative: $492,020,000

6. Just Mercy (Warner Bros.) Week; Last weekend #5

$6,000,000 (-38%) in 2,457 theaters (+82); PTA: $2,442; Cumulative: $19,613,000

7. Little Women (Sony) Week 4; Last weekend #6

$5,910,000 (-24%) in 2,503 theaters (-713); PTA: $2,361; Cumulative: $84,401,000

8. Knives Out (Lionsgate) Week 8; Last weekend #9

$4,300,000 (-24%) in 1,667 theaters (-363); PTA: $2,579; Cumulative: $145,977,000

9. Like a Boss (Paramount) Week 2; Last weekend #4

$3,840,000 (-62%) in 3,081 theaters (+3); PTA: $1,246; Cumulative: $16,924,000

10. Frozen II (Disney) Week 9; Last weekend #8

$3,717,000 (-37%) in 2,080 theaters (-575); PTA: $1,787; Cumulative: $464,869,000

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