Marvel Studios' "The Avengers" earned $18.7 million during its Thursday midnight screenings in North America, more than "Iron Man," "Iron Man 2," "Captain America: The First Avenger" and "Thor" combined, Deadline reports. It inched past "The Dark Knight" to have the largest-ever midnight opening for a superhero movie.
That figure, which brings its global box-office haul to $322.7 million, makes the Joss Whedon-directed film the eighth-biggest midnight debut; the top seven spots are held by "The Hunger Games" and installments of the "Harry Potter" and "Twilight Saga" franchises.
By comparison, 2008's "The Dark Knight" grossed $18.5 million in its midnight run on its way to a $158.4 million weekend score, the second-best domestic opening of all time behind "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2." In March, "The Hunger Games" brought in $19.7 million from midnight screenings on its way to a $152.3 million opening, the third-best ever.
Early estimates had placed "The Avengers" on track to open north of $150 million, but now some analysts are pushing that number as high as $170 million. It's expected to finish the weekend with a worldwide take of of at least $550 million, far more than the lifetime grosses of any of Marvel's previous releases; in fact, "The Avengers" has already surpassed "Iron Man 2's" $311.5 million total.
"The Avengers" stars Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Chris Evans as Captain America, Mark Ruffalo as the Incredible Hulk, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Clark Gregg as S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Phil Coulson, Cobie Smulders as S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Maria Hill and Stellan Skarsgård as Dr. Selvig.