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'Men in Black 3' debuts in No. 1 spot at box office

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The suits have knocked off the superheroes at the box office.

Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones' sequel "Men in Black 3" debuted as the No. 1 movie over Memorial Day weekend with $55 million domestically from Friday to Sunday.

That bumps Disney's "The Avengers" into second place after three blockbuster weekends on top for the superhero sensation. "The Avengers" took in $37 million over the three days to push its domestic total to $514 million and become only the fourth movie ever to top half a billion dollars.

Universal's "Battleship" was No. 3 in its second weekend with $10.8 million, raising its domestic earnings to $44.3 million. Paramount's comedy "The Dictator" took in $9.6 million to finish fourth in its second weekend and lift its total to $41.5 million.

The Warner Bros. horror tale "Chernobyl Diaries" opened at No. 5 with $8 million.

"Men in Black 3" launched with a bit more cash than its two predecessors, which both had opening weekends of just above $50 million.

But the original "Men in Black" debuted in 1997 and "Men in Black II" premiered in 2002, when admission prices were much lower than today's. That means "Men in Black 3" sold fewer tickets than the previous installments.

Overall domestic receipts for the four-day Memorial Day weekend will come in well behind last year's record of $276 million. Paul Dergarabedian, an analyst for box-office tracker, estimated that four-day revenues this time will total $195 million to $200 million, about 30 percent below Memorial Day weekend a year ago, when "The Hangover Part II" delivered a $100 million-plus debut.


A plea for flying families

NEW YORK (AP) -- Sen. Charles E. Schumer is urging airlines to allow families with young children to sit together without paying extra.

The New York Democrat is reacting to an Associated Press story last week detailing how families this summer are going to find it harder to sit together without paying fees that can add up to hundreds of dollars over the original ticket price.

"Children need access to their parents, and parents need access to their children," Schumer said in a statement. "Unnecessary airline fees shouldn't serve as a literal barrier between mother and child."

Since last year, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines and United Airlines have increased the percent of seats they set aside for elite frequent fliers or customers willing to pay extra. Fees for the seats -- on the aisle, next to windows, or with more legroom -- vary, but typically cost $25 extra, each way.

Schumer is asking Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to issue rules preventing airlines from charging parents more to sit next to kids. He is also asking the industry's trade group, Airlines for America, to persuade carriers to voluntarily waive the fee for families.

The airlines say they try to keep parents and young children together. Gate agents will often ask passengers to voluntarily swap seats, but airlines say they can't guarantee adjacent seats unless families book early or pay extra for the preferred seats.


Gay-bias ban faces vote

ALBANY (AP) -- Texas-based oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp. stockholders will vote Wednesday on a proposed company policy to ban discrimination against gay or transgender workers, a shareholder resolution pushed by New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

Using the $150 billion state pension fund's stock portfolio as influence, the Comptroller's Office said it has helped persuade 27 other big corporations to agree to new nondiscrimination policies, though several previous attempts at Exxon Mobil have failed. Holders of 20 percent of the company's shares supported a resolution last year. Language on transgender rights was added in 2008.

Fund investment officials remain undeterred, though the proposal may not pass again Wednesday. They note that losing at annual spring meetings can mean winning eventually when corporate management, which controls most voting shares, quietly makes the changes. Sometimes that happens through dialogue, or in advance of a potentially embarrassing vote, they said.