Starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, Men in Black III opened with solid though hardly outstanding figures at the North American box office on Friday. Directed by Men in Black / Men in Black II's Barry Sonnenfeld, the action / comedy / sci-fier will undoubtedly be this four-day weekend's top-grossing movie -- which means that after three weekends on top, The Avengers' reign at the domestic box office is over. But there's no denying that MIB3's Friday performance fell below expectations, especially for a 3D movie budgeted at somewhere between $225m-$300m.
Men in Black 3 collected $18 million (including $1.55 million from Thursday midnight screenings) at 4,248 theaters according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. BOM's Ray Subers predicts that Men in Black 3 will gross at least $70m -- perhaps even reaching $80m -- over the four-day weekend. Box-office prognosticators were expecting the third Will Smith-Tommy Lee Jones pairing to bring in $80m-90m. So, even if Men in Black 3 does reach the $80m mark, that'll still be at the lower end of expectations. [See also: Will Smith / Tommy Lee Jones' MEN IN BLACK 3 Disappoints: Box Office.]
Also, according to Deadline.com, Men in Black 3 cost Sony Pictures either $225 million (as per Sony) or $300m (as per "rival studios"), while the Los Angeles Times has the film's budget pegged at "nearly $250m." For comparison's sake: Disney's John Carter cost a reported $250m and The Avengers $220m, while the reported budget of Universal's Battleship was $209m.
MEN IN BLACK 3 way behind its two predecessors
Now, it would be ludicrous to claim that Men in Black III opened on a par with Men in Black ($18.85 million on Wed., July 2, 1997, including $4.81 million from Tuesday evening screenings) and Men in Black II ($18.59 million on Wed., July 3, 2002). In 2012 dollars, MIB opened with approximately $32 million while MIB2 opened with approx. $25m.
Minor detail: Neither previous MIB movie was in 3D, which can increase ticket costs by up to 45 percent. Another minor detail: Men in Black cost $90m (approx. $129 million today); Men in Black II cost $140m (approx. $179 million today).
In addition to Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, Men in Black 3 features Oscar nominee Josh Brolin (Milk), two-time Oscar winner Emma Thompson (Best Actress for Howards End, Best Adapted Screenplay for Sense and Sensibility), Jemaine Clement, Michael Stuhlbarg, Mike Colter, Nicole Scherzinger, Michael Chemus, and Alice Eve. Etan Coen (not the Coen brothers' Ethan Coen) wrote the MIB3 screenplay.
Will Smith / Josh Brolin / Men in Black III photo: Wilson Webb / Columbia Pictures.