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How Sony Built ‘Bad Boys For Life’ Into A Success With $101M+ WW & $73M+ U.S.; ‘Dolittle’ Poised For $50M+ Loss – Monday Update

Deadline — Anthony D'Alessandro

MONDAY AM writethru after Sunday AM update: It’s huge. Sony’s Bad Bays for Life is now headed for a $73.4M 4-day and a $101M WW debut after posting a stronger Sunday with $17.05M per the Culver City, CA studio this morning.

At $73M+, that’s 83% more than the $40M+ projection that tracking was seeing earlier last week, and 46% above the $50M forecast that tracking had for the threequel on Thursday. Among domestic records broken: Bad Boys for Life is the second-best MLK opener ever after American Sniper ($107.2M), and it’s the best opening ever for a Bad Boys movie. Heading into the weekend, many were figuring Bad Boys for Life‘s opening weekend projections off previous MLK action comedy hit Ride Along and Ride Along 2. What’s amazing about the global opening for Bad Boys 3, is that it will soon outstrip the entire WW lifetime gross of both Ride Alongs which respectively ended their runs at $154.4M and $124.6M.

Bad Boys for Life is also a huge win here for indie Belgian filmmakers Adil and Bilall, whose Hollywood directing career just took off like a rocket. Bad Boys for Life is also is the best US/Canada opening of Lawrence’s career, besting Bad Boys II‘s $46.5M start. It is Smith’s fifth-best 3-day domestic opening after Suicide Squad ($133.6M), Aladdin ($91.5M), I Am Legend ($77.2M) and Hancock ($62.6M). Final domestic endgame for Bad Boys for Life looks to be around $180M stateside.

At a time, when some studios like Paramount are having doubts about old IP in the wake of being scorched by Terminator: Dark Fate, sending their long-gestating Beverly Hills Cop 4 to Netflix instead of the big screen, perhaps the town should think twice before it promptly relegates revived old franchises to streaming?

This is a great kick to the 2020 box office, which many are predicting to be down from 2019’s $11.4B, given fewer franchise pics from Disney. Comscore reports that the 2020 domestic box office is at $679.5M, 18% ahead of 2019 for the period of Jan. 1-20. All titles grossed $162M over the three days of the MLK weekend, a near 24% spike over a year ago. The overall 4-day MLK weekend is coming in with $204.3M, +25% over MLK 2019. That’s the sixth-best MLK weekend ever, 2015’s being a banner year for the holiday with $250.5M, per Comscore. Yeah!

Sony has had a lot of great IP that they’ve tried to reboot lately. Some of it didn’t work because there wasn’t any reason to tell the story. But they worked hard on making this Will Smith-Martin Lawrence reteam excellent and relevant. Smith, I hear, continually had a big voice throughout development and production. Just like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull dealt with old age, Bad Boys for Life leans into Mike and Marcus not being bad anymore, and the dilemmas of losing their street edge.

That conceit was established in Joe Carnahan’s draft of the script when he was aboard. After he stepped away from the threequel because of creative differences, the studio and Smith became turned on by Adil and Bilall’s indie 2015 movie Black, about a 15-year-old girl in a Brussels black gang who must choose between loyalty and love when she falls for a Moroccan boy from a rival gang.

The studio connected with CAA and brought Adil and Bilall in, and it turned out the duo were huge Bad Boys fanboys with a contemporary vision for the threequel, further accentuated by their outside perspective as Belgian filmmakers. The lofty budget of Bad Boys II‘s $130M production cost always slowed a threequel from being made. But when Tom Rothman took the top spot at Sony Pictures, he sat down with everyone, including Smith, and made it a mission to get a third film made. Bad Boys for Life was produced by Smith, Jerry Bruckheimer, and Doug Belgrad’s 2.0. label, which co-financed the $90M feature.

Imax screens for Bad Boys for Life grossed $7.5M over four days, becoming the second-highest January opening ever for the large format exhibitor, after American Sniper. The Smith-Lawrence movie is also the second-highest January global opening for Imax with $9M. Bad Boys for Life also had the biggest Thursday night in January with $801K on Imax, beating American Sniper‘s Imax ticket sales for the night, which were $559K.

Bad Boys for Life was strong everywhere, with South and the South Central popping (it was the No. 1 film in Atlanta). Those who showed up were 56% male, with 58% being under 25, and the largest demo being 25-34 year olds at 33%. Diversity demos were 42% African American, 30% Caucasian, 18% Hispanic, and 10% Asian/Other.

In spreading the word among African American audiences, Sony held B.O.A.T.s screenings (baddest of all time) for tastemakers in respective fields in New York, D.C., and Atlanta. Hosts of these screenings included Power 105.1’s ‘The Breakfast Club’ Charlamagne Tha God (NYC), Radio Personality DJ Holiday (Atlanta), and Panama Jackson of The Root’s vertical ‘Very Smart Brothas’ (D.C.).

Additionally, Sony partnered with hip-hop publication The Source Magazine for a thematic screening in New York City, with guests consisting of influencers from the hip-hop and rap games, with the evening’s MC, ghostwriter and Detroit’s own Royce da 5’9.

In selling to the Hispanic demo for Bad Boys for Life, some of Sony’s efforts included a two-day Miami takeover, with appearances from Smith, Lawrence, and Nicky Jam, as well as filmmakers. The takeover consisted of a visit to Pitbull’s charter school SLAM! Miami, where Mayor Francis X. Suarez presented Smith and Lawrence with the keys to the city. He proclaimed Jan. 12 “Bad Boys for Life Day,” with the duo made honorary police officers.

This followed with three premiere screenings for 600+ fans and the stars’ appearance on Telemundo and Univision. There was also an unpaid integration on Univision’s highly rated dancing competition show Mira Quien Baila All Stars (Dancing With the Stars) during their season premiere, which drew 4M total viewers. The threequel was integrated across three segments, including a show tease, interview with one of the show hosts, Chiqui Delgado, and a branded performance of the Black Eyed Peas song “RITMO.” On Telemundo, there was a comical spot with Smith, Lawrence, and stars Kate del Castillo and Paola Nunez doing a promo in Spanish. But unfortunately, Lawrence is having trouble nailing his rolling ‘R’s.

On national TV, Bad Boys for Life spots dominated live sports, with a presence throughout NFL Playoffs, NBA (including Christmas games), College Football, and MMA.  The extended reach included digital takeovers on ESPN and Bleacher Report.

There was custom-created comedic pieces with Smith and Lawrence on ESPN, whereby host Stephen A. Smith auditions for the iconic role of Captain Howard in front of the stars. Viacom produced funny “couples therapy” spots, as Will and Martin seek help from well-known motivational speaker Jay Shetty.

Bravo also created a custom piece set in Miami featuring The Real Housewives of Atlanta’s Cynthia Bailey & Porsha Williams showcasing their excitement for the movie. Sony also leaned heavily into Music with Rap Caviar sponsorship on Spotify, high impact placement on Soundcloud, VEVO sponsorship of Future’s new music video “Life is Good” featuring Drake, and a heavy radio presence, including weekend takeover promotions. The campaign was closed out with splashy digital takeovers across IMDB, Fandango, and ESPN, plus a Twitter Promoted trend opening day.

Universal is reporting a 3-day of $21.95M and 4-day of $29.5M in U.S/Canada, and $56.8M worldwide (under what we were spotting earlier) for the disastrous Dolittle, which we picked through in the previous update in regards to what went wrong. Finance sources can’t determine exactly how much Dolittle will bleed just yet, as the the pic has more offshore territories to open in; right now they’re figuring $50M or moreDolittle isn’t expected to emulate Disney’s Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, which after underperforming stateside with a $36.9M opening ($113.8M domestic) was ultimately bailed out by foreign (read in previous update). Dolittle‘s 46 foreign markets grossed $27.3M through yesterday, which is nothing to brag about on a film this size. Get this: The previous Eddie Murphy Fox Dr. Dolittle movies opened better over 3-days (without accounting for inflation) with the 1998 version doing $29M over 3-days and the 2001 sequel opening to $25M.

If Dolittle wasn’t so expensive, we’d be celebrating what a solid stateside opening this is for a family film, especially in January. Previous big family U.S./Canada PG openings in January include Kung Fu Panda 3 ($41.2M), the Star Wars 1997 re-issue with $35.9M, Paul Blart with $31.8M, and then Dolittle. When it comes to stinky family fare in January, we’ve seen other studios completely bail on projects, i.e. Paramount, when they wrote off their animated feature Monster Trucks to the tune of $115M before the $125M pic opened to an awful $10.95M ($14.1M over the 2017 MLK 4-day). Uni didn’t treat Dolittle like it was disease. Even though Uni knew they had trouble on their hands, they did everything in their might to get this Downey Jr. project off to the best beginning possible. Dolittle will have the family space all to itself until Paramount’s Sonic the Hedgehog arrives on Feb. 14. Final domestic box office should be around $75M per sources.

Best markets for Dolittle were South Central and Mountain, while the East and South played soft. Females led at 51%, with 72% under 35 years old. Diversity mix was 59% Caucasian, 21% Hispanic, 12% Asian/Other and 11% African American. There was an even split between 50% general audiences and 50% kids under 12 and parents on PostTrak. Even though general audiences gave the pic 3 stars, it earned 3 1/2 stars with parents and 4 stars with kids under 12, girls at 54% besting boys at 46%.

This was a big weekend for Oscar-nominated pics, with Universal/Amblin/New Republic’s 1917 seeing $22M in its second wide weekend, -41% (technically weekend 4) and a $26.8M 4-day and a massive $81.4M running total in the wake of winning the best film at the PGA awards last night. We’ll have more updates for you tomorrow.

Studio-reported estimates as of Monday AM:

Weekend B.O. For Jan. 17-20

1Bad Boys for LifeSony3,775$23.8M$21.8M$17.05M$62.1M$73.4M$73.4M1
31917Uni/Amb/NR3,612 (+178)$6.2M$9.4M$6.4M$22M (-41%)$26.8M$81.4M4
4Jumanji: Next LevelSony3,323 (-581)$2.1M$4.1M $3.3M$9.68M (-31%)$12.8M$273.7M6
5SW: Rise of SkywalkerDis3,058 (-1,221)$1.9M$3.5M$2.8M$8.3M (-45%)$10.5M$494.1M5
6Little WomenSony2,503 (-713)$1.6M$2.4M $2.2M$6.35M (-19%)$8.2M$86.7M4
7Just MercyWB2,457 (+82)$1.65M$2.4M$1.7M$5.77M (-41%)$7.5M$21.1M4
8Knives OutLG/MRC1,667 (-393)$1.1M$1.8M$1.3M$4.3M  (-24%)$5.3M$147M8
9Frozen 2Dis2,080 (-575)$774K$1.7M$1.4M$3.9M (-34%)$5.3M$466.5M9
10Like a BossPar3,081 (+3)$1.2M$1.5M$1.2M$4M (-60%)$4.8M$17.9M2
11UnderwaterFox/Dis/TSG2,791$954K$1.46M$1.2M$3.6M (-49%)$4.3M$13.5M2

UPDATED, SATURDAY AM: w/chart When it comes to releasing a long-delayed sequel, or rebooting an old popular franchise, it’s risky business.

Yes, sometimes, there’s slam dunks like Jurassic World, but then you have disasters like Terminator: Dark Fate. But with Bad Boys for Life, the third title in the franchise in 17 years with two stars, who some may have believed to be on the wane (Will Smith and Martin Lawrence), Sony has resurrected a hit with the threequel set to open to a great $68.4M over 4-days.

That’s the second-best MLK weekend ever, after American Sniper ($107.2M) and ahead of Ride Along ($48.6M). The threequel also reps the best opening for the action cop franchise, besting the $46.5M of 2003’s Bad Boys II, and it’s an amount which is currently set to best the entire domestic gross of the first 1995 Bad Boys, which finaled at $65.8M. Things are going so well for Bad Boys for Life this weekend, Sony is already prepping a fourth film.

There’s been some real, blood, sweat and tears in birthing this third movie on behalf of the Culver City studio, jumping around Smith’s production schedule, having Joe Carnahan and then having him fall out as director, and hopping the release date around the calendar several times. Initially the movie was supposed to come out on Feb. 17, 2017 (dated back in August 2015) then eventually it was pulled off the calendar in August 2017, then placed back on the release schedule with this year’s MLK weekend.

Let’s face it, it’s been quite a gamble for Sony when it comes to reigniting their old IP, a matter of a heads or tails coin flip. For every Jumanji and Little Women, there’s duds like The Grudge and Charlie’s Angels. Zombieland: Double Tap was OK at $121.7M WW, but it only made $19.4M more than its first chapter from ten years ago. Sony hit the hammer on a third Bad Boys again, and again, and again, and they got it so right, with audiences enjoying it with an A Cinemascore (just like the last two movies) and 5 stars on PostTrak.

Reboots are complicated, and it’s not just a matter of plug and play (as Skydance and Paramount learned the hard way by slapping James Cameron on as producer and story by, alongside Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger, on Terminator: Dark Fate.

What was the secret sauce to making Bad Boys for Life work? The whole conceit that the movie is about the transition of young bucks becoming elders, topped off by the cadence between Lawrence and Smith. That’s the way guys talk to each other about what’s going on, and that’s why the franchise holds so much weight.

Says social media monitor RelishMix about the online chatter they noticed in advance of this weekend, “Both Will Smith and Martin Lawrence have their fans, and this core contingent is excited by the materials they’re seeing for Bad Boys for Life.  As for newcomers, Kate Castillo is getting some shout-outs, as are Vanessa Hudgens and some of the other new team members.  It’s clear it’s about the action for those willing to make the trip to theaters, the action and that Porsche.”

And social media was scorching for the threequel, with its total followers across Facebook, FB video views, Twitter, YouTube views and Instagram counting a huge 900M, in large part to a monstrous Black Eyed Peas song contributing to the reach.  YouTube views for the movie are at 575.6M alone for the film, with RelishMix noting that “even without the Peas song, the reach easily exceeds this level.”

The pic’s viral video rate is massive at 25:1, with a mix of official clips from ESPN and Telemundo. Together, Smith and Lawrence count 137.5M fans, with Smith accounting for 86% of that tally. Like Dwayne Johnson, Smith is dominating his social feeds to alert the world that he’s got a new movie out, and both Lawrence and him have been pushing the pic since it began shooting in Miami when they announced production on Instagram. That post alone drew 11.1M on Smith’s handle.


Meanwhile that Black Eyed Peas and J Balvin song cut for the film “Ritmo” has clocked close to 411M views since Oct. 10. Being shared on the Peas’ VEVO YouTube channel (6.6M) also didn’t hurt.

“Since then, the video has grown to account for 44% of this movie’s entire social reach. Still, there’s no denying the re-posts of the music video – not to mention the immense views for other Bad Boys clips.  The point is, this music video seems to have kick-started the awareness for Bad Boys for Life, whereas last November’s Charlie’s Angels (also a Sony release with a huge music video contributing to its social campaign) seems more one-dimensional, in that fan listened and liked the video – but failed to see its association to the music with the strength that Bad Boys seems to have,” adds RelishMix.

In fact, if we you minus the Peas music video and Smith’s social media following, Bad Boys for Life would still be left with a near half billion worth of followers (well ahead of the action comedy average social media universe count of 156M).

And, that Dolittle. Just like Universal was trying to have some good business sense by finally bringing a legacy Andrew Lloyd Webber musical to the screen in the hands of a capable musical director like Tom Hooper, there was a logical business bet made on making a family film with Robert Downey, Jr. three years ago in the wake of him launching franchises like Iron Men and Sherlock Holmes.

The CAA-packaged $160M movie, with Oscar-winning filmmaker Stephen Gaghan, was a hot package around town that Universal won back in March 2017, beating out 20th Century Fox — which made the 1967 Rex Harrison film and the Eddie Murphy redo films  — and Sony. So, Uni wasn’t the only crazy studio who believed there was gold to be mined. As has widely been reported, Gaghan, who is known for directing smaller action dramas like Syriana and Gold, bit off more than he could chew here in regards to making a VFX comedy, with the pic undergoing 21 days of reshoots last spring, with director Jonathan Liebesman and Lego Batman helmer Chris McKay overseeing rewrites.

I’ve also heard it wasn’t always simpatico between Gaghan and Downey, Jr (but still, we’ve seen such torturous projects like Venom rise like a phoenix from the ashes). Anyway, Uni knew that they had a bag of rocks on their hands with this $175M production. One finance source remarked “You can tell what they think of the movie by releasing it at a time when most kids are in school.” But, that said, if there’s a weekend to do a cash grab, it’s on a 4-day holiday where close to 100% K-12 kids are off on Monday. Not to mention, Jumanji: The Next Level would have buried this film at Christmas.

At $30.6M over 4-days, it’s a pretty good start for a PG movie, under the $39.2M that 2009’s Paul Blart: Mall Cop opened to over its MLK (that pic ending its stateside run at $146.3M). However, Dolittle‘s production cost is its biggest snake bite. Dolittle gets a B CinemaScore (the same as Paul Blart), and 3 stars on PostTrak, which doesn’t guarantee any kind of long-term success.
Critics at 19% Rotten on Rotten Tomatoes complain that the movie doesn’t have any human feeling, is too long, lifeless, given the VFX, with Rolling Stone‘s Peter Travers exclaiming, “Come back, Cats, we forgive you,” and NPR’s Scott Tobias hysterically sniping, “Dolittle is a not a film. Dolittle is a crime scene in need of forensic analysis. Something happened here. Something terrible. Something inexplicable.”

Number wise, Dolittle looks similar in some regards to Maleficent: Mistress of Evil. That Disney evil princess movie cost $185M before P&A ($10M more than Dolittle) and fizzled stateside, with a 3-day opening of $36.9M. Finance sources have informed me that the movie broke even with its $113.6M domestic, and $491.5M WW box office. However, Maleficent 2 had overseas working greatly in its favor, with a $153M global opening weekend.

Dolittle will likely file a number that’s around $60M WW by Monday EOD (granted, Maleficent 2 had bigger countries going in its opening suite, with China, Russia, Brazil, and Mexico, all of which are not part of Dolittle‘s offshore release this weekend). The CinemaScore was also better on Maleficent 2, with a solid ‘A’, so it had that going for it. There’s too many dark clouds around Dolittle to even suggest it could break even at this point in time.

Below are early Saturday estimates. We’ll have more analysis and updates for you throughout the weekend.

Box Office For Jan. 17-20

thumbrankfilmdis.screens (chg)friday(vs. prev fri)3-day4-daytlwk
1Bad Boys For LifeSony3,775$23.3M$59.3M$68.4M$68.4M1
31917Uni/Amb/NR3,612 (+178)$6.2M (-55%)$22.3M (-40%)$27.2M$81.9M4
4Jumanji: Next LevelSony3,323 (-581)$2.2M (-32%)$10M (-29%)$12.85M$273.8M6
5SW: Rise of SkywalkerDis3,058 (-1221)$2M (-49%)$8.3M (-45%) $10.3M$493.9M5
6Just MercyWB2,457 (+82)$1.7M (-52%)$5.8M (-40%)$7.27M$20.9M4
7Little WomenSony2,503 (-713)$1.6M (-25%)$3.46M (-56%)$6.4M$84.9M4
8Knives OutLG/MRC1,667 (-363)$1.1M (-33%)$4.39M (-22%)$5.56M$147.2M8
9Like a BossPar3,081 (+3)$1.2M (-67%)$4.4M (-56%)$5.3M$18.4M2
10frozen 2Dis2,080 (-575)$748K (-39%)$3.5M (-41%)$4.7M$465.9M9

UPDATED, 12:09 PM: Sony’s Bad Boys for Life is headed for the second-best MLK weekend opening of all time at the domestic box office, with a projected four-day gross of $63 million-$67 million. Today looks to be around $21M-$23M.

The other new MLK opener, Universal’s Dolittle, is looking at a four-day total of $28M-$30M. That’s not bad for a family film, but will not be enough to consider this film a success based on its lofty $175M production cost.

Best Picture Oscar nominee 1917 looks to take third place with a four-day of $26M, and a Friday gross of $5M-$6M.

PREVIOUSLY, 7:11 AM Friday: Sony’s Bad Boys for Lifea sequel 17 years in the waiting, previewed at 3,154 theaters last night making a great $6.36 million. That amount for the R-rated film is bigger than American Sniper‘s $5.3M preview, which turned out to be the record opener over the 2015 MLK holiday with a four-day total of $107.2M.

Sony is seeing a $38M opening for Bad Boys for Life, but tracking yesterday raised its projections to $50M-$56M for the weekend ahead of the $40M+ figures we saw midweek. Other MLK previews that Bad Boys for Life beat include Ride Along which made $1.1M off 9 PM previews back in 2014 and Ride Along 2 grossed $1.3M off 7 PM showtimes. Ride Along is the second-highest opener over the MLK holiday with $48.6M, while Ride Along 2 is fifth with $41M.

The Will Smith and Martin Lawrence re-team last night drew 39% African Americans, 33% Caucasian, 17% Hispanic, 4% Asian, and 7% others. Dominant crowds were 45% males 25+, 28% females 25+, 16% males under 25, and 10% females under 25 per Comscore/Screen Engine’s Posttrak. Previews began at 4 PM.

Critics overall enjoyed the movie at 75% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and Thursday night audience really liked what they saw, giving action film 4 1/2 stars and a 73% definite recommend.

Universal’s Dolittle previews began at 5 PM yesterday with a very low $925K at 3,050 theaters. Pic expands to 4,155 locations today. The $175M production is expected to bomb this weekend with a $24M-$28M take. Exits for the Robert Downey Jr. were better among families who turned out at 43% on PostTrak with 4 1/2 stars from parents (17%) and 4 1/2 stars from kids under 12 (26%). General audiences at 57% stuck their tongues out at the taking animal movie, giving it 2 1/2 stars.

Universal will fare better this weekend with the Amblin/New Republic production 1917, which led all movies in regular release last night with $3M, off 10% from Wednesday, for a first wide week of $51.9M, running total of $54.6M with monies since its limited Christmas Day launch. With 10 Oscar noms, the Sam Mendes WWI movie is expected to make around $27M in its second wide weekend over four days.

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