It took Sony 17 years, but the latest Bad Boys sequel appears to be paying off, taking in an estimated $59.2m for the start of a US holiday weekend, industry watcher Exhibitor Relations reported Sunday.
Bad Boys for Life stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence as wise-cracking detectives who reunite after years apart (Bad Boys II dates from 2003, eight years after the original Bad Boys) to take on a murderous Miami drug cartel.
Its North American ticket sales - estimated at $68.1m when Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. holiday is included - are nearly twice original predictions, according to Variety.com.
Another new release, Universal's Dolittle, starring Robert Downey Jr., placed second with an estimated $22.5m for the Friday-through-Sunday period ($30m for the four days).
Dolittle, based on a beloved children's book about a veterinarian who can talk to the animals, has been savaged by critics - who have called it "utterly lifeless," "a quicksand of a movie," and "shockingly unfunny."
The presence of Downey, hugely popular in the Marvel superhero films, and of an all-star voice cast including Emma Thompson, Ralph Fiennes, Antonio Banderas, Rami Malek, Octavia Spencer and Marion Cotillard, may have helped boost its fortunes.
In third was a film that has done rather better with the critics, last weekend's box office leader, 1917, also from Universal. The World War I drama has booked $22.1m in ticket sales ($27m for four days).
One critic called the Sam Mendes movie, filmed as if in one long, continuous shot, a "protean display of virtuoso filmmaking".
Despite a lack of big stars, it has won both the Golden Globe and the Producers Guild of America awards for best drama, and is now seen as a best-picture favorite at the Oscars.
Sony's Jumanji: The Next Level, slid one spot from last weekend to fourth, taking in $9.6 million ($12.6 million). The action sequel stars Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Kevin Hart.
Fifth spot went to Disney's Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, at $8.4 million ($10.6 million). Globally, the finale of the nine-film Skywalker Saga has now surpassed the $1 billion mark.
Rounding out the top 10 were:
Just Mercy ($6m; $7.5m for four days)
Little Women ($5.9m; $7.4m)
Knives Out ($4.3m; $5.3m)
Like a Boss ($3.8m; $4.5m)
Frozen II ($3.7m; $5.1m)