MIB 3 got the job done by finally dethroning mega-blockbuster The Avengers over Memorial Day weekend. Chernobyl Diaries also opened, though it barely made a blip on the radar, while Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom had one of the best limited debuts ever. For the three-day weekend the Top 12 earned an estimated $147.5 million, which is off 32 percent from last year when The Hangover Part II and Kung Fu Panda 2 ruled.
MIB 3 opened to an estimated $55 million this weekend, which is Will Smith's third-highest Friday-Sunday debut ever behind I Am Legend ($77.2 million) and Hancock ($62.6 million). That's not really an apples-to-apples statistic, though, given how many of Mr. Smith's bigger movies didn't opened on Friday. For example, Men in Black II opened on a Wednesday and earned $54.9 million through its first three days in theaters. Adjusting for 10 years of ticket price inflation and 3D ticket prices, MIB 3's initial attendance was significantly lower than that of Men in Black II.
That being said, the fact that MIB 3 was about on par with Men in Black II from a revenue perspective is somewhat admirable considering it hit theaters nearly 10 years after that very poorly received second entry (5.8 rating on IMDb) sullied the franchise's reputation. The marketing campaign was fairly effective in conveying that the Men in Black are back with a plot that retains the light-hearted vibe of the original movies while adding a new twist to the mix with time travel. The real credit, though, belongs to star Will Smith—his three-year hiatus may have lost him a few fans, but this opening is solid enough to suggest that his box office drawing power isn't too diminished.
Sony is reporting that the audience was 54 percent male and 56 percent over the age of 25, which indicates that families were probably not a huge contributor. The movie received a solid "B+" CinemaScore, which improved to an "A-" among moviegoers under the age of 18.
While it had to settle for second place, The Avengers was still very impressive this weekend. The superhero team-up eased 34 percent to an estimated $37 million, which is the second-highest fourth weekend ever behind Avatar's $50.3 million. On Saturday, the movie set a new record by crossing the $500 million mark in just 23 days. Through Sunday, The Avengers has earned $513.7 million, and will pass The Dark Knight ($533.3 million) by Friday to move in to third place on the all-time domestic chart.
Battleship crashed in its second outing—the board game adaptation fell 58 percent to an estimated $10.8 million for the three-day weekend. It's now made $44.3 million, which is a fraction of recent Hasbro adaptations and is even off from star Taylor Kitsch's John Carter ($53.2 million) through the same point.
The Dictator fared a bit better, dipping 45 percent to an estimated $9.6 million. Still, that hold doesn't portend a lengthy box office run for the Sacha Baron Cohen comedy, which has now earned $41.4 million.
Chernobyl Diaries debuted in fifth place with an estimated $8 million three-day haul. As expected, that's a fraction of producer Oren Peli's Paranormal Activity sequels, but it's also off from mediocre Summer horror offerings like Orphan ($12.9 million), 28 Weeks Later ($9.8 million) and Apollo 18 ($8.7 million). At least it opened a bit higher than Splice ($7.4 million), though that's really not saying much.
Chernobyl Diaries never really clicked from a marketing perspective. Commercials made clear that a group of (not altogether intelligent) young adults were going to be terrorized at Chernobyl, but it was never clear who's doing the terrorizing. Are they mutants? Some kind of supernatural beings? Or maybe just angry Ukranians? It didn't help that the scares presented weren't particularly scary, and it also didn't help that the movie's low-budget look wasn't covered up with the found footage concept the way it has been in other recent horror movies.