In a year when the theatrical release schedule was significantly reduced, it’s perhaps no surprise that there weren’t many competitors for the biggest US box office hit of 2020. Without the usual summer blockbusters, with the exception of Tenet, the highest-grossing title of the year ended up being Bad Boys for Life, which arrived in cinemas in January before the pandemic forced people to stay at home.
The Adil & Bilall-directed Bad Boys for Life was the long-awaited sequel to 2003’s Bad Boys II, and saw Will Smith and Martin Lawrence return as mismatched detectives to deal with a plot tied to their past. When released by Sony on January 17th, 2020, few would have expected the picture to end up taking the top spot domestically, despite it receiving a generally positive response from critics and audiences.
Bad Boys for Life ended up grossing $204.4 million at the US and Canadian box office, despite being released to streaming earlier than planned due to COVID-19. In addition, the sequel ended up pulling in a total worldwide gross of $424.6 million, putting it just behind Chinese hit The Eight Hundred in terms of worldwide success. As a result, it’s not a surprise that Bad Boys ended up topping the domestic charts, given that this seemed likely as far back as April.
The August debut of Christopher Nolan’s Tenet might have given Bad Boys for Life some competition, but with theatrical venues still mostly closed, it ended up underperforming. Indeed, Warner Bros.’s recent controversial decision to make its new titles available on HBO Max alongside limited cinema engagements could mean that 2021 box office takings will be scaled down from pre-pandemic years.
For beleaguered chains trying to recover from a devastating year when indoor public screenings became a novelty, then, there still appears to be a long way to go before things can even start getting back to normal. Meanwhile, the success of Bad Boys for Life cannot be discounted, and further films in the franchise are reportedly being developed.