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'Men In Black III' Could Finally Topple 'The Avengers'

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After three weeks of dominance, "The Avengers" could at last dip out of the top box office slot as "Men in Black III" launches at more than 4,000 theaters across the country. As "Men in Black III" battles "The Avengers" atop the charts, horror-thriller "Chernobyl Diaries" is also in position to scoop up some thrill seekers this weekend without any genre competition. Director Wes Anderson's highly buzzed about new film, "Moonrise Kingdom," will also get a limited release this weekend, though at only a few venues across the country it's unlikely to come near the top ten.

When "Men in Black II" hit theaters in the summer of 2002, expectations were high for the Sony/Columbia release, as Will Smith was at the peak of his popularity and the original "Men in Black" was one of the top grossing films of the late 1990s. But even with a built-in audience and a popular cast, "Men in Black II" struggled to meet lofty expectations, particularly in the U.S., where domestic revenue fell $60 million from the original. Even though "MIB II" ended up with more than $400 million worldwide, clearly the franchise was headed in the wrong direction.

Ten years later, Will Smith is back with Tommy Lee Jones for another adventure and expectations are once again very high. Critical reviews have been much improved from the last entry, but the production budget is also estimated at well over $200 million, much of it due to script issues that delayed shooting last summer. While "MIB III" should make plenty of money overseas, having to compete with "The Avengers" won't help it get off the ground and its domestic appeal doesn't seem to be as high as Sony/Columbia had hoped. Look for "Men in Black III" to earn somewhere in the $60 to $65 million range in the U.S. this weekend, a so-so opening for a $200 million production launching at more than 4,000 theaters.

As "Men in Black III" looks to pry action audiences away from "The Avengers," R-rated horror-thriller "Chernobyl Diaries" aims at a slightly different audience as it hits roughly 2,450 theaters this weekend. "Chernobyl Diaries" is from "Paranormal Activity" writer/director Oren Peli, who hasn't made a movie since "Paranormal Activity" became nothing short of a phenomenon back in 2009. Though there is no one recognizable in the cast, recent low-budget horror movies like "Paranormal Activity" and "The Devil Inside" have done very well, particularly over opening weekend. All things considered, "Chernobyl Diaries" should be able to finish somewhere in the $15 to $18 million range, a decent total for a low-budget, relatively limited release.

Even as "The Avengers" slides out of the top box office slot, it continues to rack up records across the globe. "The Avengers" has now surpassed the $460 million domestic intake of "Star Wars" to become the fifth highest grossing film in U.S. history, and by the end of the weekend it should shoot past "Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace" as well. Overseas, "The Avengers" has also maintained its pull with action audiences, bringing it just shy of $1.2 billion as it heads into its fourth weekend in theaters.

Also hitting theaters this weekend will be "Moonrise Kingdom," a critically acclaimed comedy from director Wes Anderson ("The Royal Tenenbaums," "Rushmore") starring Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Ed Norton and Bruce Willis. This weekend, "Moonrise Kingdom" will hit only four theaters across the country but should ride strong buzz into a major expansion in the coming weeks. Unlike most of Anderson's past films, "Moonrise Kingdom" also carries a PG-13 rating instead of R, which should help its overall commercial outlook as it expands.

Next weekend, the June box office schedule will kick off with "Snow White and the Huntsman," another Snow White tale that is much more serious than recent box office disappointment "Mirror Mirror." "Snow White and the Huntsman" stars Charlize Theron, Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth, giving it a popular cast to go along with new take on familiar material. Music drama "Battlefield America" and foreign film "For Greater Glory" will also get launched, though they will likely receive limited releases.

RTT Box Office Predictions for 5/25/12 - 5/27/12 (In Millions):

1. Men in Black III (Sony/Columbia): $65

2. The Avengers (Disney): $28

3. Chernobyl Diaries (Warner Brothers): $18

4. Battleship (Universal): $12.5

5. The Dictator (Paramount): $8.5

6. Dark Shadows (Warner Brothers): $6.5

7. What to Expect When You're Expecting (Lionsgate): $6

8. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (Fox Searchlight): $4

9. The Hunger Games (Lionsgate): $1.8

10. Think Like a Man (Sony/Screen Gems): $1.4

by RTT Staff Writer

For comments and feedback: editorial@rttnews.com

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