As ‘Bad Boys 4’ Hits Box Office, Are Moviegoers Ready to Embrace Will Smith After Oscars Slap?

Whatcha gonna do when “Bad Boys” comes for the box office? If you’re a theater owner, the answer is hopefully sell some tickets.

Sony’s “Bad Boys: Ride or Die,” the fourth installment in the Will Smith and Martin Lawrence-led buddy cop series, is targeting $30 million to $50 million from 3,850 theaters in its first weekend of release. As that cavernous range suggests, estimates vary greatly depending on whom you ask. Sony has offered the soft $30 million figure, while rivals and independent tracking services believe the $45 million to $50 million range is more likely.

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Adding to opening-weekend ambiguity: The sequel to 1995’s “Bad Boys,” 2003’s “Bad Boys II” and 2020’s “Bad Boys for Life” is Smith’s first major film to grace the big screen since he assaulted Chris Rock onstage at the 2022 Oscars. Have audiences soured on Smith or will they forgive and forget in favor of another “Bad Boys” reunion?

“Ride or Die” rolls into theaters more than four years after the prior entry, “Bad Boys for Life,” which overperformed expectations with $62 million in its debut. It became the highest-grossing installment in the franchise with $206 million domestically and $426 million globally. And because the pandemic forced the entire movie industry to shutter a few months after its release, “Bad Boys for Life” was the highest-grossing film of 2020.

Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah returned to direct the fourth film, which cost $100 million. It follows detectives Mike and Marcus as they investigate corruption within the Miami Police Department. But after a setup turns them into fugitives, the duo is forced to work outside the law to solve a case. Vanessa Hudgens, DJ Khaled, Eric Dane and Tiffany Haddish round out the cast.

Also this weekend, Dakota Fanning’s supernatural horror film “The Watchers” is eyeing $10 million in its debut. Ishana Night Shyamalan, the daughter of filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan, is directing the film for Warner Bros. It follows a 28-year-old artist who is stranded, and then stalked by mysterious creatures, in a remote forest in Ireland.

So far, it’s been a lackluster summer as revenues lag 24% behind last year and more than 40% below pre-pandemic times, according to Comscore. June could provide a much-needed jolt with the release of Pixar’s “Inside Out 2” (June 14), “A Quiet Place: Day One” (June 28) and Kevin Costner’s “Horizon: An American Saga – Chapter 1” (June 28).

Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Tony Vinciquerra has blamed 2024’s box office downturn on lingering COVID-era disruptions and last year’s dual writers and actors strike.

“People got out of the habit of going into theaters,” Vinciquerra said on a recent conference call. “Once we get back into the normal cadence of producing films, I think you’re going to see the comeback. We may not get back to pre-pandemic level. It is more difficult to produce a film that generates cultural action within the community but we’re pretty optimistic about the next couple of years.”

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