(Bloomberg) -- More than two years after Will Smith shocked movie fans by slapping Oscars host Chris Rock on national television, the actor returned to movie theaters in a big way with Bad Boys: Ride or Die this weekend. 

Ride or Die is the first real test of Smith’s commercial appeal since he blew up at the 2022 Oscars ceremony and damaged his marketability as a major star. The film is expected to open at No. 1 in domestic theaters. But a wide range of box office forecasts suggests Hollywood insiders aren’t sure how the moviegoing public will react to Smith’s return.

Representatives for the 55-year-old star have been reaching out to other studios in recent weeks in hopes that the film reignites Smith’s career, according to the Hollywood Reporter. A spokesperson for his talent agency declined to comment.

Responding to jokes about his wife by Rock, Smith rose from his front-row seat at the Oscars ceremony and smacked the comedian onstage before a live TV audience of millions. In the aftermath, he resigned from the Motion Picture Academy and was banned from its events for 10 years. Since then, he’s had just one film in theaters, the Apple Inc. production Emancipation, which played briefly in a limited number of locations before going online.

Ride or Die, starring Smith and Martin Lawrence, follows two Miami police officers as they investigate the suspicious death of their former captain. It’s getting decent reviews: Two thirds of critics are recommending the picture, according to Rotten Tomatoes, which aggregates reviews. Audience approval was much higher.

At a screening Thursday night in New York, attendees cheered at appropriate times. Amara Carter, a student attending, said she’s already put the slap behind her. 

“I didn’t really care, like, it’s Will Smith,” she said.

The film, which cost $100 million to make, is the fourth installment in the series that dates back to 1995. The most recent release, 2020’s Bad Boys for Life, is the best performer in the franchise. It opened with US sales of $62.5 million and went on to take in $426.5 million globally.

Ride or Die is expected to generate sales of about $55 million domestically this weekend, according to forecaster Box Office Pro.

Sony Group Corp., which released the film, had said before the debut that it would be happy with anything over $30 million. On Saturday, the company upped its three-day forecast to $53 million, based on strong initial ticket sales.

There have been other factors at play. Through last weekend, domestic box-office revenue was down 24% year-to-date, with major releases delivering disappointing numbers.

Shawn Robbins, an independent forecaster and founder of the Box Office Theory, is among the more optimistic.

“There’s pent-up demand for a fun action movie,” Robbins said in an interview. The picture will also face little direct competition until next month, when Twisters and Deadpool & Wolverine are released, he said.

(Updates with revised weekend forecast in 10th paragraph.)

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