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Will Smith returned to theaters for the first time since 2008’s Seven Pounds with this weekend’s Men in Black 3, which put the A-list celeb back on top of the box office. Sony’s $230 million (some reports suggest a much higher budget) alien-zapping sequel earned an estimated $70 million over the extended Memorial Day weekend.

Men in Black 3 will easily become Smith’s thirteenth film to earn over $100 million at the box office — a truly impressive feat — but its opening weekend actually leaves much to be desired. Over the three-day portion of the weekend, MIB 3 grossed $55 million, which was higher than the debuts of Men in Black ($51.1 million) and Men in Black II ($52.1 million). (Due to higher ticket prices, 3-D surcharges, and IMAX fees, though, it sold far fewer tickets than its predecessors.) The original Men in Black earned $250.7 million in 1997. Men in Black II scored $190.4 million in 2002. Adjusting for ticket-price inflation, those totals soar to $432.6 million and $259.6 million, respectively. In today’s frontloaded box office culture, Men in Black 3 won’t likely reach those heights.

Sony says the film has taken in $133.2 million overseas and topped the box office in 104 countries. That gives the sequel a worldwide total of $203.2 million, and hopefully sets the stage for a lucrative run, because — between production, marketing, and distribution costs — MIB 3 likely needs to take in at least $650 million just to break even. That means the sequel will need great word-of-mouth from audiences (57 percent of which were above the age of 25) who issued MIB 3 a “B+” CinemaScore grade.

Marvel’s The Avengers grossed another mind-blowing $46.9 million over the four day frame. The Disney-distributed superhero ensemble, which on Saturday passed the $500 million mark faster than any other film, has grossed $523.6 million (by Saturday, it will have surpassed The Dark Knight‘s $533.4 million total to become the third highest-grossing film of all time), and has scored over $1.3 billion worldwide. It’s those sorts of numbers that justify Avengers‘ $220 million budget.

Last weekend’s openersBattleship and The Dictator finished in third and fourth place, respectively. Despite its patriotic sensibilities, Battleship continued to rapidly sink, earning just $13.6 million over the holiday frame and giving Universal’s ailing tentpole (mastpole?) an 11-day total of $47.1 million against a $209 million budget. (Yes, you’re reading this correctly. The Top 3 films all had budgets above $200 million. Welcome to summer 2012!) The Dictator, meanwhile, which seems downright sensibly budgeted at $65 million (although rumors persist that reshoots drove costs closer to $100 million) found $11.8 million, which lifted the Sacha Baron Cohen satire’s total to $43.6 million after 13 days.

Hey, look — another film with a gargantuan budget in fifth place! Warner Brothers’ $150 million Tim Burton/Johnny Depp collaboration Dark Shadows drained moviegoers of $9.4 million worth of tickets over the 4-day frame. The campy adaptation of the cult favorite soap opera has earned $64.9 million after three weekends.

The Oren Peli-produced horror horror flick Chernobyl Diaries finished in sixth place with a weak $9.3 million over its extended frame — far from the heights of Peli’s popular Paranormal Activity franchise. The film attracted a young audience (57 percent were under the age of 25), which, as young audiences typically do, rushed to the theater on opening night. Chernobyl scared up $3.5 million on Friday, but then crumbled over the rest of the weekend. Warner Brothers estimates it will earn just $1.3 million today. Polled audiences gave the film a wretched “D+” CinemaScore grade.

Outside the Top 10, Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom got off to a remarkable start. The Focus Features film took in $669,486 from just four theaters, leading to a stunning per-theater-average of $167,371. Over the three-day frame, Moonrise Kingdom broke the record for the best per-theater-average for a non-animated movie by grossing $523,006 — leading to a location average of $130,752. The 2006 musical Dreamgirls formerly held the record with $126,317.

1. Men In Black 3 — $70.0 million

2. The Avengers — $46.9 million

3. Battleship – $13.6 million

4. The Dictator — $11.8 million

5. Dark Shadows — $9.4 million

Check back next for full box office coverage on Snow White and the Huntsman‘s opening weekend, and follow me on Twitter for up-to-the-minute box office updates.

Men in Black III

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