Thor portrayed by Chris Hemsworth (left) and Captain America, portrayed by Chris Evans, are shown in a scene from The Avengers.
By DAVID GERMAIN
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.
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.
Overall domestic revenues came in at $248 million, climbing 49 percent compared to the same weekend last year, when Thor opened with $65.7 million, according to box-office tracker Hollywood.com. The Avengers accounted for four-fifths of the weekend's domestic receipts.
Hollywood launched a potentially record-shattering summer with a vengeance, The Avengers landing as just the first of three huge superhero tales that highlight a lineup filled with other blockbusters in the making.
The Amazing Spider-Man follows on July 3 and The Dark Knight Rises wraps up the current Batman series on July 20.
So anticipation for those two films could rival that of The Avengers.
As admission prices rise, Hollywood's record-breakers often take in more money but sell fewer tickets than previous blockbusters. But The Avengers took in so much money that it's the undisputed champ among debuts.
"The Avengers kicks off what looks to me to be the summer box-office equivalent of the 100-year flood," said Hollywood.com analyst Paul Dergarabedian. "This is perhaps the most perfect summer lineup in box-office history."