The comic action heroes of "Men in Black 3" have taken over the weekend box office from the comic-book superheroes of "The Avengers."
According to studio estimates Monday, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones' latest "Men in Black" installment debuted with $70 million domestically over the four-day Memorial Day weekend, which proved unusually quiet at theaters for Hollywood overall.
Sony's "Men in Black 3" took over the No. 1 spot from Disney's "The Avengers," which had been the top flick for three straight weekends but slipped to second place with $46.9 million domestically.
"Men in Black 3" added $133.2 million overseas for a worldwide total of $203.2 million.
"We took over the world this weekend," said Rory Bruer, Sony's head of distribution. "It's so exciting to see Will and company back in this franchise. I certainly think that most people who've seen the film think it's the best of the franchise."
"The Avengers" raised its domestic total to $523.6 million, making it the No. 4 movie on the all-time domestic revenue chart and only the fourth film to top half a billion dollars. "The Avengers" will quickly pass the No. 3 film, "The Dark Knight" at $533.3 million, leaving only "Avatar" at $760.5 million and "Titanic" at $658.5 million ahead of it.
While it was a good start for "Men in Black 3" and another strong hold for "The Avengers," Memorial Day weekend was the slowest at theaters in more than a decade. Box-office tracker Hollywood.com estimates that overall domestic receipts for the four days will finish at $190 million, the lowest since Memorial Day weekend in 2001, when revenues totaled $185.3 million.
A year ago, Hollywood pulled in a record $276.3 million over Memorial Day weekend, when "The Hangover Part II" debuted with $103.4 million.
So far, Hollywood's summer season has been a one- or two-hit wonder, with only "The Avengers" doing blockbuster business and now "Men in Black 3" joining it with a solid opening.
Other May releases fell far short of expectations, with Johnny Depp and Tim Burton's "Dark Shadows" and the game adaptation "Battleship" swamped in the wake of "The Avengers." "Battleship" launched in April overseas, though, where its $232 million haul helped make up for its meager $47.1 million total after two weekends domestically.
With domestic revenue at $4.3 billion so far this year, Hollywood remains on a record pace, receipts running 11.3 percent ahead of last year's, according to Hollywood.com. But revenue had been running 20 percent ahead of 2011's earlier this year.
Analysts have said this season could sweep past last year's summer revenue record of $4.4 billion on the strength of such releases as "The Avengers" and its superhero cousins "The Dark Knight Rises" and "The Amazing Spider-Man."
Other than "The Avengers" and "Men in Black 3," summer is off to a slow start.
"After five weeks of summer, to only have two hits, that's tough," said Hollywood.com analyst Paul Dergarabedian. "We definitely need to slingshot back. I was on record predicting record revenue for this summer, and now I'm getting worried. Summer is only 18 weeks, so we don't have a lot of time, but we do have a lot of big movies coming."
"Men in Black 3" reunites Smith's Agent J and Jones' K for their first big-screen adventure since 2002. The movie co-stars Josh Brolin as the younger Agent K, who is targeted for death by a time-traveling alien that Agent J chases back to the late 1960s.
The weekend's other new wide release, the Warner Bros. fright flick "Chernobyl Diaries," opened far back in the pack at No. 6, with $9.3 million for the four days.
In limited release, Focus Features' first-love comic drama "Moonrise Kingdom" got off to a huge start with $669,486 in four theaters, for a whopping average of $167,371 a cinema. That compares to an average of $16,478 in 4,248 theaters for "Men in Black 3."
Directed by Wes Anderson ("Rushmore," "Fantastic Mr. Fox"), "Moonrise Kingdom" chronicles the relationship of a troubled boy and girl who run away together in the mid-1960s. The ensemble cast includes Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton and Tilda Swinton.
"The Avengers" has added $781.9 million overseas, giving it a worldwide total of just over $1.3 billion. The film is closing in on the No. 3 earner worldwide, last year's "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" at $1.33 billion," again with only "Avatar" ($2.8 billion) and "Titanic" ($2.2 billion) ahead of it.
Still, many older films such as "Gone with the Wind," "Star Wars" and "The Sound of Music" sold more tickets than "The Avengers" and other modern blockbusters. Rising admission prices mean today's movies make more money while selling fewer tickets, especially those that earn much of their cash from pricier 3-D shows, such as "The Avengers."
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Monday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Hollywood.com. Where available, latest international numbers are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Tuesday.
1. "Men in Black 3," $70 million ($133.2 million international).
2. "The Avengers," $46.9 million ($26.3 million international).
3. "Battleship," $13.8 million ($2.9 million international).
4. "The Dictator," $11.8 million ($11.8 million international).
5. "Dark Shadows," $9.4 million ($13.1 million international).
6. "Chernobyl Diaries," $9.3 million.
7. "What to Expect When You're Expecting," $8.9 million ($1.5 million international).
8. "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," $8.2 million ($853,000 international).
9. "The Hunger Games," $2.9 million ($800,000 international).
10. "Think Like a Man," $1.8 million.