Sony's 3D Memorial tentpole Men in Black 3 grossed $1.6 million in Thursday midnight runs at the domestic box office.
The threequel is an important test for the marquee franchise, as well as Smith's star status. MIB 3 returns Barry Sonnenfeld in the director's chair and is expected to gross $85 million to $100 million for the four-day holiday weekend, easily taking the box office crown away from The Avengers (now in its fourth weekend).
MIB 3 -- costing close to $230 million to produce -- also is rolling out overseas, and Sony is hopeful that the event pic will clear $200 million worldwide in its debut.
Domestically, MIB 3 could hit $20 million on Friday, including midnight earnings.
The movie, also headlining Josh Brolin and Tommy Lee Jones, opens a decade after Men in Black II debuted, but Sony is still making a big play for kids who don't necessarily remember the franchise. If that happens, the pic could see a strong business on Saturday and Sunday, as well as Monday.
MIB 3 fared much better at midnight than last weekend's action tentpole Battleship, which only earned $650,000 on its way to a dismal $25.5 million three-day weekend opening.
Alcon Entertainment and Warner Bros. horror pic Chernobyl Diaries grossed roughly $525,000 in midnight earnings.