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Weekend Box Office: “Men in Black 3″ Dethrones ‘Avengers,” Scores Soft $70 Million, Top Ten Chart

Weekend Box Office: "Men in Black 3" Dethrones 'Avengers," Scores Soft $70 Million, Top Ten Chart

After a 10 year wait since the last installment of the venerable “Men in Black” franchise, Sony’s “Men in Black 3” debuted in the top spot during the four-day Memorial Day holiday weekend as the Will Smith-starrer took in an estimated $70 million, which was on the lower side of expectations. Observers had projected that the pricey $250-million picture would open with $70-$80 million domestically. The opening marks the fifth film this year to debut in the top spot for the distributor. (See Top Ten Box Office Chart below.)

“MIB3” debuted in 106 markets internationally and reported an estimated $133.2 million, taking its worldwide total for the weekend to $203.2 million.

But the heavily-promoted Barry Sonnenfeld sci-fi comedy-actioner did something no other film has been able to do in the last four weeks: knock Disney’s “The Avengers” out of the top spot.  The Marvel boxoffice juggernaut was in the second spot with an estimated four-day gross of $46.9 million, advancing its North American cume to a stunning $523.6 million. “Avengers” passed $500 million domestically on Saturday on day 23, beating record-holder “Avatar,” which made that milestone in 32 days.

On the worldwide stage “Avengers” has amassed an impressive $1.3 billion so far, marking the fourth highest -grossing film in box office history, behind only “Avatar,” “Titanic,” and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.”

Even with the one-two punch from “MIB3” and “The Avengers,” overall, the Memorial Day weekend was down some 31% from the holiday frame last year, with an estimated total for all films of $190 million.  Two sequels had a bigger punch during the four-day Memorial Day holiday in 2011, when “The Hangover Part II” and “Kung Fu Panda 2” racked up $103.4 million and $60.9 million, respectively.

But even with this lower-performing Memorial Day weekend, the year to date total is still running 11% or so ahead of last year at this time. The biggest opening ever during the four-day Memorial Day weekend was recorded in 2007, when “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” pulled in $140 million.

The PG-13 rated “MIB3” was produced by Sony and Hemisphere Media Capital and costars Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin as the younger Tommy Lee.  Smith’s last two big-budget wide releases were “Hancock” in 2008, and “I Am Legend” in 2007, which opened with $62.6 million and $77.2 million, respectively.  “Seven Pounds” was also released in 2008, but that film was a drama with a much lower budget.

“MIB3” was reportedly a troubled production and was shut down for several months for re-writes, although some upbeat critics thought they were worth it.  This time around Agent J goes back in time to the 1960s and the early years of MIB to thwart an assassination attempt on his friend and fellow agent Agent K, which if successful would change history.

Thanks to 3-D and IMAX premium ticket prices, “MIB 3” marks the best opener in the franchise;  its Friday/Saturday/Sunday $55 million is ahead of the original “MIB,” which grossed $51 million during its first three days, and “MIB2,” which took in $52 million.

And while “MIB3’s” domestic opening was robust but not record-breaking, its international gross through Monday was a respectable $133.2 million from 106 markets, bringing its worldwide total to $203.2 million.  The highest-grossing international territories were China with $19.5 million and Russia with $18.9 million. IMAX sales contributed approximately $12.5 million to the worldwide total, which is 20% higher than their previous record for a worldwide Memorial Day release.

Looking to the weeks ahead, “MIB 3” earned 67% fresh from critics on Rotten Tomatoes and a modest B+ CinemaScore with general audiences and A- with moviegoers under 18. The combined positive leaning reviews and audience scores should help the “MIB3” find its legs down the road.  Not unexpectedly, the audience skewed male and older, to those familiar with the franchise: 54% of the opening weekend audience was male; 46% was female; 44% were under 25 and 56% were 25 or older.

Universal’s “Battleship” made port in the third slot on its sophomore session, taking in a disappointing estimated $13.6 million after its tepid opening a week ago, advancing its domestic cume to $47.1 million. The saving grace of the big-budget actioner is international markets: the film has pulled in around $232.7 million so far, raising the worldwide total to a still anemic $279.8 million, given the film’s $209 million budget. (Remember, about half the grosses go back to the distributor, which also paid for worldwide makreting costs.)

In a counter-programming move, the only other wide release this weekend was Warner Bros.’ “Chernobyl Diaries,” an R-rated horror film about six tourists who hire an extreme tour guide who takes them on a tour of the former home of the workers of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor disaster, but they soon find they are not alone.

Directed by visual effects whiz Bradley Parker and produced by “Paranormal Activity” director Oren Peli, the R-rated film featured an ensemble cast of reltive unknowns. The low-budget picture arrived in the sixth spot with a bleak estimate of $9.3 million for the four days.  Warner Bros. is releasing the film for partner Alcon, who acquired distribution rights earlier in the year.

In the world of limited releases, Focus Features “Moonrise Kingdom” from director Wes Anderson debuted with $669,486 from just four theaters, averaging an incredible screen average of $167,371 during the four-day holiday.  The per-screen average for the first three days was $130,752, surpassing the record set for a live-action (e.g., non-animated) feature in a regular theatrical run in December 2006 by “Dreamgirls,” with a $126,317 opening weekend average while playing in three theaters.

Fox Searchlight’s “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” added 879 theaters this weekend, bringing the count to 1,233, marking the first weekend the well reviewed comedy-drama has been in more than 1,000 theaters. The John Madden film was in the eighth spot with an estimated $8.23 million for the four days, averaging $6,671 per theater. The picture has been performing strongly at the boxoffice for the distributor and has a cume to date of $18.4 million. (See our full speicalty report here.)

The Weinstein Company’s “The Intouchables” opened in four locations this weekend and grossed an estimated $137,438, averaging a stout $34,360 per theater.  The French comedy is already a worldwide phenomenon as the picture has grossed more than $300 million outside North America.

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