Tentpole trend: better box office at international B.O.

Sony’s “Men in Black 3″ is the latest example of a tentpole sporting a wide gap between its terrif overseas B.O. ($133.2 million) and less-than-spectacular domestic results ($70 million), forcing studio honchos to figure out what they’re doing right — and wrong.

The Stateside weakness of “MIB,” as well as Warner Bros.’ paltry $9.3 million opening for “Chernobyl Diaries,” led to a 32% downslide compared to last year’s Memorial Day weekend box office.

Adult audiences turned out for specialty films, however.

Focus Features’ “Moonrise Kingdom” scored a record-breaking per-screen average of $130,752 in three days, while Fox Searchlight’s stalwart performer “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” grossed $8.2 million through Monday for a domestic cume of $18.4 million. Even “Hotel,” though, has earned far more overseas — more than $80 million.

The divide between domestic and international grosses appears to have been widening over the past few months, with overseas B.O. accounting for a higher-than-usual percentage of a pic’s total global take.Disney’s “John Carter” earned 74% of its nearly $282 million global cume from overseas wickets, while international B.O. for Universal’s “Battleship” accounts for 83% of its $280 million worldwide gross. Pic’s Stateside share should go up a bit as the pic plays out domestically.

While “John Carter” and “Battleship” were financial disasters because of a lack of Stateside support, Sony’s third “Men in Black” outing could wind up in the black — if only barely.

“Men in Black 3,” which cost $230 million (not including marketing), simply didn’t live up to the heat that pre-weekend tracking services suggested it had developed, especially among younger auds; pic skewed 56% toward adults over-25.

The film’s Stateside launch wasn’t terrible, however. “Men in Black” still managed to unseat three-weekend champ “The Avengers,” which provided considerable competish for newcomers, falling a scant 34% using three-day figures. In just 23 days, the Disney-Marvel tentpole crossed $500 million domestically to become the fastest pic to reach that mark.

“Men in Black” also knocked “Avengers” from its top perch at the overseas B.O., grossing $133.2 million from a whopping 106-country spread. China and Russia lead the charge for “Men in Black,” contributing $19.5 million and $18.9 million, respectively.

“Avengers,” meanwhile, grossed another $28.1 million internationally, lifting its overseas cume to $781.9 million — 60% of its $1.3 billion worldwide tally.

Even less costly tentpoles like “Dark Shadows” and “The Dictator” saw higher percentages contributed by overseas grosses. Both those pics were affected by “Avengers” in the U.S., cuming $64.9 million and $43.6 million, respectively. Overseas, however, the competition for those movies has been less intense, since “Avengers” launched internationally a week before the States.

Sony distrib topper Rory Bruer said “Men in Black 3″ will be able to duck upcoming tentpoles like “Snow White and the Huntsman” by appealing to families, though “Madagascar 3,” which bows alongside “Prometheus” on June 8, will compete for the family sector. “Certainly, there’s still room for the (summer) market to expand,” Bruer added.

The outlook for “Men in Black 3″ isn’t too bleak, according to bizzers, who estimate that the three-peat can quadruple its $55 million three-day opening, which would yield a potential domestic cume of $220 million — an OK position financially given the pic’s solid footing overseas.

By comparison, the second “Men in Black,” which was panned by critics and audiences, cumed almost four times its domestic opening with $190 million. Overseas grosses, meanwhile, contributed approximately $250 million for “Men in Black 2.” The franchise’s third outing has garnered much stronger critical support than the second; the three-quel also received a positive B+ CinemaScore rating.

Overseas playability looks promising, particularly in Asia and some Latin American territories like Mexico, where the pic scored $5.9 million — or 56% of the local market share. In China, “Men in Black 3″ saw the market’s seventh-highest opening, beating “Avengers,” though that pic opened on a Saturday. South Korea and Japan each contributed around $8 million for “MIB 3.”

The film did well in Imax on a global scale, outgrossing the company’s previous Memorial Day weekend high by 20%. “Men in Black 3″ earned $5.5 million through Monday in the U.S., with an additional $7 million internationally.

Alcon Entertainment and FilmNation’s low-budget chiller “Chernobyl Diaries” earned most of its opening from under-25 auds, especially femmes. Pic will be a quick burn in the States — not helped by a dismal D+ CinemaScore.

Stateside holdovers such as Lionsgate pair “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” and “The Hunger Games” provided nominal support to the overall box office, though the films saw relatively minimal weekend-to-weekend drops. “Expecting,” which grossed $7.1 million through Sunday, fell 33% (based on three-day figures), while “Hunger Games” dropped just 22% after collecting another $2.3 million in three days. “Expecting” has cumed $29.3 million; “Hunger Games” nears the $400 million mark.

The Weinstein Co.’s French B.O. sensation “The Intouchables” saw OK biz at four domestic locations, collecting an estimated four-day per-screen average of $34,360. “Intouchables,” which has cumed $340 million overseas, debuted here with a total $137,438. Pic expands next weekend into the top 25 U.S. markets.

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