Tommy Lee Jones, left, and Will Smith star in "Men in Black 3." (Sony Pictures )
Though it's been a decade since the "Men in Black" were last on the big screen, Memorial Day box-office receipts proved the franchise is still relevant to moviegoers.
The third installment in the sci-fi comedy series starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones grossed a respectable $70 million domestically over the four-day holiday, according to an estimate from distributor Sony Pictures. Overseas, where the 3-D movie debuted in every major foreign country, the movie collected a solid $132 million, bringing the film's worldwide total to $202 million.
Heading into the weekend, pre-release audience surveys had suggested that "Men in Black 3" would rake in at least $250 million globally upon its premiere. While the film is still off to a decent start, its opening weekend ticket sales indicate the film will likely not end up being the mammoth summer blockbuster Sony was hoping for -- especially given that the picture had a budget of nearly $250 million.
"MIB3" did accomplish another feat, however: It was the only movie able to knock "The Avengers" out of the No. 1 position at the box office after four weeks. The superhero action flick collected an additional $46.9 million over the long weekend, raising its domestic total to $523.6 million. The movie is now the fourth-highest release of all time -- not adjusting for inflation -- with its $1.3 billion gross behind only "Avatar," "Titanic" and the final "Harry Potter" movie.
The only other new film to hit theaters nationwide this weekend, the low-budget horror flick "The Chernobyl Diaries," barely made a dent at the box office. The Warner Bros. movie sold only $9.3 million worth of tickets over the long weekend. And those who saw the film about friends who run into trouble at a nuclear power plant hated it, assigning it an average grade of D+, according to market research firm CinemaScore.
Overall, Memorial Day ticket sales were down 32% from the holiday weekend last year, when "The Hangover Part II" and "Kung Fu Panda 2" debuted with strong ticket sales.
The "Men in Black" franchise, featuring Smith and Jones as two alien-fighting federal agents, originated in 1997. While the original movie was a smash hit, grossing $589 million worldwide, its sequel was less well received by critics and fans and it made $442 million globally. To help stir up interest in the decade-old series, Smith appeared on numerous talk shows, including "Ellen" and "Good Morning America."
The film appealed to men and women in nearly equal measure this weekend, as 54% of the audience was male. Those who saw the solidly reviewed film -- 56% of whom were over age 25 -- gave it an average grade of B+.
"MIB3" is one of the most expensive releases of the year and had a tumultuous journey to the big screen. Production shut down for three months after Smith voiced his unease over the time travel sequence in the film, which was eventually rewritten. Since the original film's premiere, the actor has continued to gain clout at the box office, starring in hits like "I Am Legend" and "Hancock." "MIB3" marked the 43-year-old's return to the big screen following a four-year hiatus; his last picture was the 2008 drama "Seven Pounds."
The film, like nearly all of Smith's movies, fared better abroad than it did in the U.S. "MIB3" will follow suit, as fans overseas propelled the movie to the No. 1 spot in 104 of the 106 foreign markets in which it premiered. The picture performed best in China, where it sold $20.6 million worth of tickets and had the second-biggest opening of the year in the country. It also did strong business in Russia, where its $18.9 million start was 25% higher than the opening of "The Avengers."
Meanwhile, Universal Pictures' "Battleship" continued to sink in its second week of release. After premiering with a lackluster $25.5 million, the movie's ticket sales plummeted 57% to $13.8 million over the long weekend. The $209-million production has racked up $232.7 million abroad, but will be hard-pressed to break the $100 million mark at the domestic box office.
[Updated, 12:02 p.m. May 28: In limited release, the French film "The Intouchables" debuted in four U.S. theaters and grossed a solid $137,438 through Monday. That marked the best debut for a foreign-language film at the box office this year, said distributor the Weinstein Co. The movie, about a white quadriplegic millionaire who hires a Senegalese caretaker, is a blockbuster overseas, having collected $340 million abroad.
Here are the top 10 movies in the U.S. and Canada, based on their four-day grosses. Percentage drops are based on three-day grosses. International grosses are through Sunday only.
1. "Men in Black 3" (Sony/Hemisphere Media Capital): Opened with $70 million. $133.2 million overseas in 106 foreign markets.