The Avengers is the superhero world's new box-office king—or, at least it is at midnight.
In 12 a.m. Friday screenings, the mega-Marvel movie grossed $18.7 million, according to its studio, a new high for the genre.
To recap: The Dark Knight just got beat.
The Avengers' take is Hollywood's eighth-biggest ever for a midnight debut.
The night-owl gross helped push the film, teaming Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man with a half-dozen other Marvel heroes, past the $300 million mark worldwide.
The midnight opening is a box-office category that's very nearly been the exclusive domain of films based on young-adult best-sellers, from Harry Potter to Twilight to The Hunger Games, which narrowly retains its edge as the year's biggest 12 a.m. movie.
The previous best for a superhero movie was The Dark Knight's then-record $18.5 million.
The Avengers bested The Dark Knight with the help of 3-D ticket prices, as well as 2012-priced 2-D and IMAX ones. The 3-D format also aided The Avengers in closing the gap in sold-out screenings with The Hunger Games, which has been shown only in 2-D and IMAX.
With the midnight superhero record in its pocket, The Avengers will next set its sights on the Batman epic's opening-weekend mark of $158.4 million, the second-biggest of all time. The Hunger Games is right there in third place with a $152.5 million debut.
"The key will be Saturday's number," Hollywood.com box-office analyst Paul Dergarabedian said.
The Avengers has widely been expected to gross about $150 million domestically by Sunday.
Here's a complete rundown of the top 10 all-time midnight debuts, as compiled per Hollywood.com stats:
(Originally published at 9:38 a.m. PT on May 4, 2012.)