By Brian Fuson & Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood May 28, 2012 at 12:45PM
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.