One good set of comic-book heroes deserved another at the box office over Memorial Day weekend.
“Men in Black 3,” based on the comics created by Lowell Cunningham and published by Aircel, Malibu and Marvel comics, debuted with almost $70 million domestically over the four-day Memorial Day weekend, according to the Associated Press.
It was enough to finally knock “The Avengers,” based on the comics created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby for Marvel, out of the No. 1 spot, which the super-blockbuster had inhabited for three straight weeks.
“The Avengers” made another $46.9 million domestically, raising its total domestic haul to $523.6 million and 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, according to the AP.
“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, according to the AP.
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 cinematic spectacles like “The Avengers” that earn so much coin from more expensive 3-D tickets.
Directed by Joss Whedon, “The Avengers” stars Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Chris Evans as Captain America, Mark Ruffalo as The Incredible Hulk, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury.
“Men in Black 3″ reteams Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as super-secret government agents protecting the citizens of Earth from aliens, with director Barry Sonnenfeld also returning for the third installment. The three-quel also introduced a time-travel wrinkle, so Josh Brolin co-stars as a 1960s era version of Jones’ Agent K, with Alice Eve playing a younger version of new MIB chief Agent O, played in current time by Emma Thompson. The film also features Flight of the Conchords actor/musician Jermaine Clement as baddie Boris the Animal and Tulsa native Bill Hader of “Saturday Night Live” fame portraying Andy Warhol.
“Men in Black 3″ took $133.2 million overseas for a worldwide total of $203.2 million, reports the AP.
While it was a good start for “Men in Black 3″ and another solid showing for “The Avengers,” Memorial Day weekend was the slowest at theaters in more than a decade, according to the AP, with overall domestic receipts for the four days finishing around $190 million, the lowest since Memorial Day weekend in 2001, when revenues totaled $185.3 million.
Last year, Hollywood pulled in a record $276.3 million over Memorial Day weekend, when “The Hangover Part II” debuted with $103.4 million.
In between “The Avengers” and “MIB 3,” May has mostly been a disappointment at the box office. Johnny Depp and Tim Burton’s “Dark Shadows” and the game adaptation “Battleship” were left high and dry 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, according to the AP.
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 the AP. 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.” But those movies won’t arrive until July, and summer is off to a slow start so far.
“After five weeks of summer, to only have two hits, that’s tough,” Hollywood.com analyst Paul Dergarabedian told the AP. “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.”
There was better box-office news 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,” according to the AP.
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, Jason Schwartzman and Tilda Swinton.
Here are the top 10 movies over the Memorial Day weekend, from the AP:
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.