Universal’s “Ride Along 2” cruised to $1.26 million at 2,381 U.S. theaters in Thursday night showings.
Paramount’s “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” took in a respectable $900,000 at 1,995 locations.
“Ride Along 2” performed 19% better than the $1.06 million “Ride Along” took in two years ago from Thursday night previews at 1,727 theaters, with shows which began at 8 p.m. The sequel’s preview showings began an hour earlier.
The cop comedy, re-teaming Kevin Hart and Ice Cube, is expected to gross $40 million over the four-day Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend. The first “Ride Along” launched during the same weekend two years ago and earned $48.6 million.
Rentrak reported that its PostTrak polling showed 46% of moviegoers rated “Ride Along 2” as “excellent” with another 34% as “very good” and 16% as “good.”
Most box office forecasts have pegged “Ride Along 2” — which expands to about 3,175 sites Friday — as this weekend’s winner, replacing Disney’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” The seventh “Star Wars” has been No. 1 at the box office for four consecutive weekends and should pull in about $20 million over the holiday.
Domestically, “The Force Awakens” is already the highest-grossing film in history, having hauled $822 million in 27 days. The space saga took in $42 million in its fourth weekend in the U.S., edging “The Revenant.”
Forecasters have estimated that “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” will open with about $20 million at approximately 2,400 locations. The movie, directed by Michael Bay, focuses on the team of ex-military operators who took on the terrorists who attacked a U.S. diplomatic compound on Sept. 11, 2012.
The $50 million production is expected to perform well in the more conservative “red states.”
Fox’s “The Revenant” is expected to perform strongly this weekend, thanks to awards-season momentum. The drama generated a healthy $39.8 million when it debuted in wide release last weekend and scored a leading 12 Academy Award nominations, including nods for stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy, as well as director Alejandro G. Iñárritu.
It also won the Golden Globe for Best Drama on Sunday.