"The Avengers" roared out of the box office gate, grossing $18.7 million from roughly 2,500 midnight screenings to kick off its North American debut.
Of that, $1.31 million came from 273 Imax theaters.
Disney and Marvel Entertainment's superhero mashup could be making a run at the all-time box-office record this weekend. Last year's "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2" holds the record at $169.1 million.
"The Avengers" is projected by analysts to take in between $150 million and $170 million over the weekend, based on huge pre-sale figures form Fandango.com and RivalMovieTickets, sky-high tracking and massive foreign box-office returns.
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The film has already surpassed its $220 million production costs with overseas grosses alone. Since opening a week ago in 39 foreign countries, the film has taken in more than $280 million. It expands to China and Russia this weekend.
"The Avengers" will be playing at 4,340 locations this weekend, 3,364 of which will feature 3D. It's on 275 Imax screens.
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"Deathly Hallows, Part 2" brought in a whopping $43.5 million at midnight shows last year on its way to its record weekend and ""The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn" made $30.3 million in midnight shows on its way to a $138.1 million debut.
More recently, "The Hunger Games" brought in $19.7 million from midnight showings on its way to a $155 million opening weekend. "The Dark Knight" earned $18.5 million at midnight back in 2008, and went on to a $158 million debut weekend.
"Iron Man 2." however, did $7.5 million in midnight shows and still went on to post Marvel's best opening weekend ever at $159.9 million in 2010.
The ensemble cast of "The Avengers" features Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner and Mark Ruffalo. Joss Whedon co-wrote with Zak Penn and directed the film, which brings many of Marvel's pantheon of comic book superheroes together for the first time. The film is produced by Marvel Studios’ President Kevin Feige and executive produced by Alan Fine, Jon Favreau, Stan Lee, Louis D’Esposito, Patricia Whitcher, Victoria Alonso and Jeremy Latcham.