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'Bad Boys' return expected to dominate box office as 'Dolittle' struggles

Box office forecasters expect a couple of bad boys to win audiences' hearts over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend.

Sony Corp.'s Columbia Pictures brings back Will Smith and Martin Lawrence to reprise their roles as buddy cops in a new installment of the action-comedy "Bad Boys" franchise, "Bad Boys for Life." Meanwhile, Comcast Corp.'s Universal Pictures could be facing its first flop of the year given weak expectations for "Dolittle," which reimagines a classic children's fantasy character.

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"Bad Boys for Life"
Source: Columbia Pictures

BoxOffice.com expects "Bad Boys for Life" to round up $40 million Jan. 17-19. When Monday's U.S. holiday is included, Deadline Hollywood anticipates that the film will land in the $40 million to $45 million range. Box Office Mojo notes that early tracking indicates a wider-than-usual range of $32 million to $48 million over the four-day period.

It has been 17 years since Columbia last released a Bad Boys film. The earlier two installments both turned a profit. "Bad Boys II," the more expensive of the original films, at $130 million in production costs, opened to $46.5 million and shot its way to $658.3 million in total revenue. The 2003 film ended with $230.6 million in net profits, according to Kagan, a media market research group within S&P Global Market Intelligence. "Bad Boys for Life" cost $90 million to produce. Looking at another Will Smith-led franchise revival film, 2012's "Men In Black 3" opened to $54.6 million against a $218.9 million budget. It still went on to collect $264.2 million in net profits, according to Kagan.

"Bad Boys for Life" had a 76% "fresh" rating on critical-review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes as of 11 a.m. ET, Jan. 17. The site's "critics consensus" said the film "reinvigorates this long-dormant franchise by playing squarely to its strengths."

Prospects for Universal Pictures' "Dolittle" look less bright, given the film's bigger budget, smaller opening forecasts and weaker reviews. BoxOffice.com gave "Dolittle" a $16.9 million forecast for the three-day opening. Including the Monday holiday, Deadline predicts a range of $25 million to $30 million, while Box Office Mojo did not expect "Dolittle" to open any higher than $23 million.

The projections are worrisome given that the Robert Downey Jr.-led title's production budget of $175 million was more than that for some Avengers titles involving the Iron Man actor. Kagan's comparisons for "Dolittle" included a wide range of results. The 2006 Ben Stiller-led "Night at the Museum" ended with $561.2 million in net profit against a $128.3 million budget after opening to $30.4 million. On the other end of the spectrum, 2011's "Zookeeper" opened to $20.1 million against an $81.0 million budget, and it landed in the red by $2.8 million, according to Kagan.

"Dolittle" bombed in early reviews, with a 17% "rotten" score on Rotten Tomatoes, as of 11 a.m. ET, Jan. 17. "Dolittle may be enough to entertain very young viewers, but they deserve better," according to the site's "critics consensus."

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