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Memorial Day Box Office: 'Men in Black 3' Soft in U.S., 'Moonrise Kingdom' Cleans Up

Men in Black 3 Will Smith on Machine - H 2012
Wilson Webb/Columbia Pictures

"MIB3" clears $203.2 million worldwide but underperforms in North America with $70 million; horror pic "Chernobyl Diary" also tepid with $9.3 million; Wes Anderson's specialty release "Moonrise" posts the highest per-location average of all time for a live-action film.

Despite a $203.2 million worldwide opening, the jury's still out on whether Will Smith threequel Men in Black 3 can recoup its $230 million production budget and hefty marketing spend.

The Sony tentpole grossed a modest $70 million over the four-day Memorial Day weekend in North America, compared with the $75 million to $80 million that the studio was anticipating (rivals thought the film would do $90 million to $100 million).

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Part of the issue: MIB3, which returned the sci-fi franchise to the big screen after a decade-long hiatus, played best to older moviegoers, with 56 percent of those buying tickets over age 25.

There's no doubt that MIB3 performed far better than fellow May event pics Battleship and Dark Shadows -- both of which bowed much closer to box-office monster The Avengers' opening -- but MIB3's inability to crack $100 million further fanned concerns about the summer box office so far, excluding Avengers.

MIB3 does have the bragging rights to being the film that finally bumped Avengers from the top spot, albeit in Avengers' fourth weekend.

Overseas, MIB3 earned an estimated $133.2 million from 106 territories, fueled by strong performances in Russia, Asia and Latin America territories. It struggled in many parts of Europe, where good weather kept moviegoers otherwise occupied.

Sony says it's more than pleased with the performance of the film, which is Smith's first in four years.

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"The numbers in the U.S. are terrific, plus we took over the world," Sony worldwide president of distribution Rory Bruer said. "It's playing well in every theater, and it's great to have Will Smith back in theaters. Moviegoers and reviewers think it's the best installment in the franchise."

MIB3 likely will have to gross $500 million or more globally for Sony to come out ahead. Sony insiders say they're confident the pic, which received a B+ CinemaScore, will have a great multiple and indicated another installment is possible based on the film's early returns.

Overseas, MIB3 debuted to $19.5 million in China, the seventh-biggest opening of all time and beating the openings of Avengers and Battleship. It scored the sixth-biggest debut of all time in Russia, grossing $18.9 million, and earned $8.5 million in Korea and $8 million in Japan.

In the threequel, Smith's character travels back in time, where he meets a young Agent K, played by Josh Brolin. Tommy Lee Jones returns to play the older Agent K, while Barry Sonnenfeld returned to direct after helming the first two installments

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Sony says MIB3 is the best-performing film in the franchise in terms of its three-day weekend gross of $55 million. However, Men in Black grossed $84.1 million during the course of its six-day debut in July 1997, while Men in Black II posted a five-day debut of $87.2 million in July 2002 (both those films debuted around July 4th).

In North America, moviegoing was down a sizable 31 percent from Memorial Day 2011, when The Hangover Part II and Kung Fu Panda 2 debuted to strong numbers, with the Hangover sequel alone grossing north of $135 million for the four days.

Disney and Marvel Studios’ Avengers remained a formidable force in its fourth outing, grossing an estimated $46.9 million for the four days, including a three-day gross of $36.8 million -- the second-best showing for a film in its fourth weekend behind Avatar. Also during the weekend, Avengers became the fastest film to reach $500 million (23 days) domestically.

Avengers' global gross is now $1.31 billion -- just short of the $1.33 billion earned by last year's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, the third-biggest title of all time. The superhero pic's domestic gross through Monday was $523.6 million, while its international cume was $781.6 million.

Alcon Entertainment and FilmNation's horror pic Chernobyl Diaries, Memorial weekend's other nationwide release at the domestic box office, grossed a muted $9.3 million for the four-day weekend to come in No. 6. The low-budget film released by Warner Bros. on behalf of Alcon earned a dismal D+ CinemaScore.

Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom made big headlines at the specialty box office. The Focus Features film, which opened the Cannes Film Festival this month, grossed $523,006 from four theaters in New York and Los Angeles for the three days for a record-breaking per-location average of $130,752 -- the highest of all time for a live-action film, beating previous record holder Dreamgirls ($126,317 in 2006).

For the four days, Moonrise Kingdom grossed $669,486 for a staggering location average of $167,371.

The Weinstein Co. also did well with French comedy The Intouchables, which grossed $103,507 from four theaters for the three days for an impressive location average of $25,877.

And Fox Searchlight's specialty film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel came in No. 8 with a four-day gross of $8.2 million as it expanded into a total of 1,233 theaters. The film's cume is $18.4 million.