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