"Men in Black 3" takes down "The Avengers" at box office

Will Smith, left, and Tommy Lee Jones in a scene from "Men in Black 3." Columbia Pictures

Will Smith, left, and Tommy Lee Jones in a scene from "Men in Black 3."
Columbia Pictures

Updated 12:10 p.m. EDT

(CBS/AP) LOS ANGELES - "Men in Black 3" has taken down "The Avengers" at the box office.

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.

Pictures: Summer films 2012

The film took over the No. 1 spot from Disney's "The Avengers," which was the top film for three straight weekends but slipped to second place with $46.9 million. The Marvel superhero movie raised its total to $523.6 million, making it the No. 4 movie on the all-time domestic revenue chart.

"The Avengers" could soon pass the No. 3 film, "The Dark Knight," at $533.3 million, behind only "Avatar" at $760.5 million and "Titanic" at $658.5 million.

"Men in Black 3" launched with a bit more cash than its two predecessors, which both had opening weekends of just above $50 million.

But the original "Men in Black" debuted in 1997 and "Men in Black II" premiered in 2002, when admission prices were much lower than today's. That means "Men in Black 3" sold fewer tickets than the previous installments.

"Men in Black 3" reunites Smith's Agent J and Jones' Agent K as they battle a new alien menace that travels back in time to the 1960s to do away with the younger Agent K (Josh Brolin).

Overall domestic receipts for the four-day Memorial Day weekend will come in well behind last year's record of $276 million. Paul Dergarabedian, an analyst for box-office tracker Hollywood.com, estimated that four-day revenues this time will total $195 million to $200 million, about 30 percent below Memorial Day weekend a year ago, when "The Hangover Part II" delivered a $100 million-plus debut.

Hollywood remains on a record pace this year, with domestic revenue so far at $4.24 billion, up 12.5 percent over 2011 receipts, according to Hollywood.com.

But "The Avengers" and now "Men in Black 3" have been the only notable successes for the summer season so far, with big releases such as "Dark Shadows" and "Battleship" fizzling on the domestic front.

"We really need to get going if we don't want to have play catch-up every weekend through the summer," Dergarabedian said. "Some of these summer movies are just not doing the business people had hoped for in North America."

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