Earth's mightiest comic book heroes smashed North American box office records as The Avengers pummeled the competition to haul in $200.3 million on its opening weekend, industry analysts say.
Directed by cult favorite Joss Whedon, the Walt Disney high-thrills action adventure made in collaboration with Marvel Comics looked set to become the highest grossing US debut of all time.
Heroes Captain America, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man and Thor are brought together as an international peacekeeping agency of superheroes battling to save Earth from Thor's evil brother Loki and his army of aliens.
The film's all-star cast includes Gwyneth Paltrow, Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), Robert Downey Jr (Iron Man), Chris Evans (Captain America), Mark Ruffalo (Hulk), and Chris Hemsworth (Thor), most of the latter reprising roles from earlier stand-alone movies.
Walt Disney said the film, which was released first abroad before hitting US shores, had already raked in some $641.8 million and reports said it was on target to join the elite club of the world's few billion dollar movies.
Takings from its first three days meant The Avengers had outstripped expectations and surpassed the $168.2 million taken on its opening weekend by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 - the eighth and final film in the hugely-popular series.
"Such strong grosses signaled that this was not just a fan movie -- not just a guy movie -- but a movie for everyone," Dave Hollis, Disney's executive vice president for distribution told the Los Angeles Times.
It will be a huge relief to Disney, which spent some $220 million to produce the film, after its very public box office flop John Carter earlier this year which caused a $200 million write-down -- one of the biggest losses of all time, according to the LA Times.
The Avengers kicked romantic comedy Think Like A Man into second place earning $8 million, according to Exhibitor Relations. That brings its three-week total to $73.0 million, the box office tracker said.
Smash action hit The Hunger Games remained in third place in its seventh week on the big screen. The movie, starring Jennifer Lawrence, earned $5.7 million and has raked in more than $380 million since its opening.
Legions of fans have flocked to see the film, based on a book by Suzanne Collins, in which a teenage girl played by Lawrence fights to win a deadly television reality show featuring children in a post-apocalyptic world.