Box Office Report: 'Men in Black 3' Tops Friday Box Office With $18 Million

Men in Black 3 Josh Brolin Will Smith - H 2012
Wilson Webb/Columbia Pictures

Men in Black 3 Josh Brolin Will Smith - H 2012

But to come out ahead, Sony's 3D tentpole will need plenty of kids and families to turn out over the long Memorial Day weekend; horror pic "Chernobyl Diaries" opens in the No. 4 spot with $3.5 milllion, Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom" soars at the specialty box office.

Sony's 3D Men in Black 3 wrested the box office crown from The Avengers on Friday, but the threequel will need a notable bump over the weekend if it's to clear between $75 million and $80 million in its four-day debut.

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MIB3 -- marking Will Smith's first movie in four years -- earned $18 million on Friday at the domestic box office, including $1.6 million in Thursday midnight earnings.

Sony, which spent close to $230 million to make MIB3, is confident that kids and families will turn out in big numbers once they become available over the weekend. On Friday, the film played older, with 57 percent of the audience over the age of 25.

One promising sign: Those under the age of 25, who made up 27 percent of Friday's audience, gave the tentpole an A- CinemaScore, while the film received a B+ overall.

MIB3 is an important test for the marquee franchise after a decade-long hiatus, as well as Smith's star status. 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.

Hollywood is watching the film's performance carefully, considering that May tentpoles Dark Shadows and Battleship both underperformed. Some of that was due to Disney's The Avengers, which kicked off the summer season and remains a formidable force even now.

Avengers, with a worldwide gross of $1.24 billion through Friday, soon will eclipse the final Harry Potter pic ($1.33 billion) to become the third-biggest title of all time behind Avatar and Titanic.

On Friday, Avengers earned $9.7 million at the domestic box office to take the No. 2 spot. It's on track to earn $47 million to $49 million for the four-day holiday weekend and will become the fastest film ever to cross $500 million domestically (the pic' gross through Friday was $486.4 million).

Hollywood already is resigned to the fact that MIB3 won't reach the levels of last year's The Hangover Part II, which opened nationwide on the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend and grossed a whopping $10.4 million in Wednesday midnight runs on its way to earning $135 million for the four days.

MIB3 also is rolling out overseas, and Sony is hopeful that the event pic will clear $200 million in its worldwide debut, though warm weather in major European countries including the U.K. kept people away from the multiplex on Friday.

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Alcon Entertainment and Warner Bros.' horror pic Chernobyl Diaries -- Memorial weekend's other nationwide release -- grossed $3.5 million on Friday to take the No. 4 spot. The film, produced and financed by FilmNation, earned a dismal D+ CinemaScore and is looking at a Memorial Day debut in the $11 million to $12 million range.

Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom made headlines at the specialty box office, grossing $172,000 from four theaters in New York and Los Angeles for a whopping per location average of $43,082. The Focus Features film opened the Cannes Film Festival earlier this month.