UPDATE: Sellouts, schmellouts. While The Avengers didn't top The Hunger Games at midnight, it got awfully close, and set a new mark for superhero movies with an $18.7 million take in 12 a.m., Friday screenings.
At least in the early box-office going, and especially tonight at midnight.
With only hours to go until The Avengers' long-awaited domestic debut, the Marvel Studios epic has sold out some 1,850 screenings nationwide, according to the advance-ticket sellers Fandango and MovieTickets.com.
At the same point in the run up to its midnight release, The Hunger Games was reported to have sold out more than 4,300 screenings.
The Hunger Games is the year's top-opening movie, and Hollywood's third-biggest opener of all-time, with a $152.5 million debut.
While the upper end of guesstimates has The Avengers besting The Hunger Games, as well as reigning opening-weekend champ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, most have pegged the superhero film to open with about $150 million.
If the weekend race for bragging rights could be close, the midnight box-office battle—as the gulf in the sell-out numbers suggest—might not be.
The hot-ticket Hunger Games grossed nearly $20 million in its night-owl debut, and took seventh place among the all-time midnight openers, falling just under a half-dozen Harry Potter and Twilight films.
With the exception of The Dark Knight, which set a then-midnight record in 2008, superhero films haven't proved as adept as putting up eye-popping numbers at the stroke of 12. The biggest Marvel Studios film to date, Iron Man 2, topped out at about $7.5 million. (The film ended up scoring one of Hollywood's biggest-ever opening weekends.)
No matter what happens Friday morning, The Avengers will hold big advantage over The Hunger Games: worldwide bank.
The all-star team-up movie, which opened in Australia, Europe and elsewhere last week, is now the No. 1-grossing 2012 release at the international box office, with an estimated $281.1 million take, Disney reported Thursday.
Even Katniss Everdeen has only so many arrows in her quiver.
(E! and Fandango are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)