Joss Whedon’s The Avengers began its U.S. theatrical run with a stellar $18.7 million from midnight shows, which was the 8th highest total ever, trailing seventh place The Hunger Games, which earned $19.7 at its midnight openings by just a million dollars.  The Avengers’ opening round totally blew away the previous Marvel Studios record for midnight shows, which was held by Iron Man 2, which earned $7.5 million. 
According to Varety, estimates for The Avengers total weekend domestic take range from $140 million to as high as $170 million.  The Avengers midnight showing was actually better than many experts had forecast. As of yesterday afternoon The Avengers had sold out 1,850 midnight screenings, which was a far cry from the 4,300 sold out shows that The Hunger Games managed, so many analysts feared that The Avengers would start out its debut weekend far behind The Hunger Games, which is 2012’s most successful film to date.
Still the final total for The Avengers debut remains anyone’s guess. If the film can capitalize on good word of mouth and increase its audience beyond hardcore fans and families, it does have a chance to post the best opening of 2012, though it will have to be strong on both Saturday and Sunday to do so.  Check back here Sunday afternoon for the early estimates on one of the biggest launches of the year.