In this film image released by Disney, Chris Hemsworth portrays Thor, left, and and Chris Evans portrays Captain America in a scene from "The Avengers," expected to be released on May 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Disney, Zade Rosenthal)
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Iron Man and his fellow avengers are off to a solid start as they bring their save-the-world act to U.S. theaters.
"The Avengers" launched domestically early Friday with $18.7 million from midnight screenings. That puts it at No. 8 all-time for midnight debuts, just behind the $19.7 million start for "The Hunger Games" in March.
But it's well under half the amount for the No. 1 midnight draw — the "Harry Potter" finale last fall with $43.5 million.
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" also went on to the biggest domestic opening weekend ever with $169.2 million.
While "The Avengers" started modestly compared with the last "Harry Potter" flick, it still may end up among the top weekend openings ever. "The Hunger Games" followed its midnight start with a $152.3 million debut weekend, the No. 3 opening behind "Deathly Hallows: Part 2" and "The Dark Knight" at $158.4 million.
Produced by Disney's Marvel Studios unit, "The Avengers" already is a blockbuster overseas, where it opened last week in 39 markets.
Disney reported that through Thursday, "The Avengers" had taken in $304 million internationally. In barely a week, "The Avengers" has pulled in far more overseas than some of Marvel Studios' earlier releases in their entire run, including "Iron Man," ''Thor" and "Captain America: The First Avenger."
"The Avengers" assembles key Marvel Comics superheroes introduced in earlier films, including Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Chris Evans as Captain America and Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye. Samuel L. Jackson reprises his role as superhero recruiter Nick Fury, and Mark Ruffalo makes his debut as the Incredible Hulk.