- Associated Press - Sunday, May 6, 2012

LOS ANGELES — Hulk, smash.

That’s what Captain America tells the Incredible Hulk to do in “The Avengers,” and that’s what the Marvel Comics superhero mash-up did at the box office, smashing the domestic revenue record with a $200.3 million debut.

It’s by far the biggest opening ever, shooting past the previous record of $169.2 million for the debut of last year’s “Harry Potter” finale.

“The Avengers” added $151.5 million overseas over the weekend to bring its total to $441.5 million since it began opening internationally a week earlier.


That raised the film’s worldwide haul to $641.8 million in barely a week and a half, more than its Marvel superhero forerunners “Iron Man,” ”Iron Man 2,” ”Thor” and “Captain America” took in during their entire runs.

If distributor Disney’s domestic estimate Sunday holds when the final weekend count is released Monday, “The Avengers” would be the first movie ever to haul in $200 million in a single weekend.

While the number could dip below $200 million come Monday, Disney spent the weekend revising its forecasts upward as business kept growing.

“There aren’t even words, to be honest. I’m running low on double takes. Every time we looked at a number, it just got bigger than what we could have hoped for in the best-case assumption,” said Dave Hollis, Disney’s head of distribution. “With this film, this weekend, anything is possible.”

“The Avengers” started with solid midnight crowds Friday, though nowhere near a record. Then it did $80.5 million for the full day Friday, second only to the “Harry Potter” finale’s $91.1 million first day.

Revenues held up much better than expected with $69.7 million Saturday, and Disney estimated that the film would bring in $50.1 million more on Sunday.

The record weekend was the culmination of years of careful planning by Marvel Studios, which has included teasers for an “Avengers” dream team collaboration in its solo superhero adventures.

Directed by Joss Whedon (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), “The Avengers” features Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Chris Evans as Captain America, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury.

A $200 million total for every movie in release is considered a great weekend for the business as a whole, so “The Avengers” redefines the standards for a blockbuster debut.

“If ‘The Avengers’ is any indication, we’re going to see a leap rather than a gentle little nudge into new territory, and the lineup is there to justify it going forward,” said Greg Foster, chairman and president of the huge-screen IMAX cinema chain.

Crowds were so anxious to see the film on IMAX’s giant screens that Foster said the company had only one problem: it ran out of seats to sell.

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