Sony's big summer bet starts strong with "MIB 3" debut

Tue May 29, 2012 6:10am EDT
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By Ronald Grover and Lisa Richwine

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones' reprisal of their roles as world-saving secret agents in "Men in Black 3" collected $70 million at the North American box office in its initial weekend, putting Sony Pictures in a strong position leading into a summer of expensive bets for the studio.

Sony made a hefty wager on three big-budget films it will release over the next 10 weeks, risking as much as $1 billion to make and market "MIB 3" and reboots of "Spider-Man" and "Total Recall" in the U.S. and foreign markets.

Sony's strong opening came during a year of big budget misfires. Universal Studios' "Battleship" sank at the U.S. box office, likely resulting in a loss for owner Comcast Corp. "John Carter," which will go down in history as one of the biggest bombs of all time, losing $200 million for Walt Disney Co.

"MIB 3," which cost more than $215 million to produce and at least $100 million more to market, needed to open with at least $56 million over the holiday weekend to break even, according to analyst Tony Wible, a managing partner at Janney Montgomery Scott, who does not follow Sony but compiles a database to predict future film performances.

Sony will release the second of its big-budget films on July 3, with the latest edition of "Spider-Man." For its new film, Sony reduced costs and replaced the previous star, Tobey Maguire, with Andrew Garfield.

Still, "The Amazing Spider-Man" cost the studio about $215 million to produce.

A month later Sony will release "Total Recall," a remake of the 1990 film that stars Colin Farrell in place of the original's Arnold Schwarzenegger and cost more than $125 million to make.

Sony will spend about $130 million to market each film, say industry experts, in both the North American market and the increasingly important foreign markets.   Continued...

Cast member Tommy Lee Jones arrives for the premiere of "Men In Black 3" in New York May 23, 2012. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly