Box Office Preview: 'Men in Black 3' Set to Dethrone 'Avengers' With $200 Million Worldwide Bow

1:56 PM PST 05/24/2012 by Pamela McClintock
Wilson Webb/Columbia Pictures
"Men in Black 3"

The Will Smith tentpole is expected to win domestically with $80 million-$90 million; Wes Anderson's Cannes entry "Moonrise Kingdom" opens at the specialty box office, and Paul McCartney short "Blue Valentine" debuts before "The Intouchables."

Sony is looking to dominate the Memorial Day holiday weekend with Men in Black 3, which returns the marquee Will Smith franchise to the big screen for the first time in a decade.

The big-budget 3D tentpole -- costing close to $230 million to produce -- is widely expected to topple monster hit The Avengers from the top spot at the domestic box office with a solid four-day gross of $80 million to $90 million (some believe it could hit $100 million). MIB 3, which also opens around the world, is predicted to clear $200 million globally through Monday.

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Avengers, from Disney and Marvel Studios, continues to dazzle nearly a month into its run and will become the No. 3 movie of all time at the worldwide box office by the end of the weekend or early next week. The superhero pic boasted a global total of $1.22 billion through Wednesday, putting it at No. 4 behind Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 ($1.33 billion).

Directed by Joss Whedon, Avengers has grossed $472.2 million domestically, good for No. 5 of all time, and $747.4 million internationally, making it No. 6.

MIB 3 opens one week after Universal and Hasbro Entertainment's big-budget Battleship debuted to a dismal $25.5 million domestically, setting off alarm bells across Hollywood. MIB 3 is in a far better position, according to tracking, but all eyes will be watching to see how well younger generations relate to the Men in Black brand despite Smith's star status.

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Barry Sonnenfeld, who directed the first two films in the sc-fi action-comedy franchise, also directed the threequel, while Steven Spielberg returned to executive produce. In MIB 3, Agent J (Smith) travels back to 1969 to stop an alien criminal from assassinating a young Agent K, played by Josh Brolin. Tommy Lee Jones returns to star as the older Agent K, while Jemaine Clement and Emma Thompson join the franchise along with Brolin.

The first Men in Black, released in 1997, was a runaway success, earning $587 million worldwide. Sequel Men in Black II, opening in July 2002, topped out at $441 million and was a critical disappointment.

Also opening nationwide at the Memorial Day box office is Alcon Entertainment and FilmNation's horror film Chernobyl Diaries, which hopes to serve as counterprogramming to the plethora of tentpoles in the marketplace. Warner Bros. is distributing the pic, and prerelease tracking suggests it will post a four-day gross of $12 million to $13 million.

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The specialty box office sees the release of Wes Anderson's critical darling Moonrise Kingdom, from Focus Features. The movie, which was the opening-night film at the Cannes Film Festival last week, stars Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton and Jason Schwartzman.

Focus opens Moonrise in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles, and box-office observers expect the movie to do impressive numbers.

The Weinstein Co. opens French comedy blockbuster The Intouchables in New York and L.A. and will debut Paul McCartney's black-and-white short My Valentine before the film. Intouchables has grossed nearly $340 million overseas, including north of $166 million in France.

My Valentine, based on an original idea by Stella McCartney, stars Natalie Portman and Johnny Depp, who translate the lyrics of the iconic song through sign language. Depp also performs a guitar solo.

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