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Cobie Smulders The Avengers Maria Hill
Cobie Smulders: Maria Hill, The Avengers

Early estimates had The Avengers' box office grosses pegged at about $70m in North America on Friday, including $18.7 million from Thursday midnight screenings. Official studio estimates, however, have the superhero movie earning $80.5 million on Friday — the second highest opening-day take ever.

It turns out The Avengers has far surpassed the two Kristen Stewart / Robert Pattinson / Taylor Lautner movies on the top-five list, The Twilight Saga: New Moon ($72.7m) and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 ($71.64m). But David Yates / Daniel Radcliffe's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 remains the undisputed opening-day box office record holder, having grossed $91.07 million on its first day out in summer 2011. (Note that unlike Deathly Hallows 2 and The Avengers, the two Twilight movies did not have the advantage of box-office-boosting 3D surcharges.)

The Avengers did, however, officially break one box office record: best single-day not including midnight screenings. Sam Raimi / Tobey Maguire's Spider-Man 3 was the previous record holder, with $49.8 million in 2007 (or approx. $56.5 million today). The Avengers took in an estimated $61.8m.

Following The Avengers' early (and apparently inaccurate) Friday estimates, the Joss Whedon-directed movie was expected to gross $160m over the weekend. Considering that it (semi-) officially (we're still dealing with estimates) opened with $80.5 million on Friday, that could well mean that Deathly Hallows 2's opening-weekend record — $169.18 million — may be shattered. Box Office Mojo's Ray Subers guesstimated that The Avengers should open with $172.5 million — or more.

We'll find out for sure when box office actuals are released on Monday, as studio estimates can be way off. For instance, back in March Gary Ross / Jennifer Lawrence's The Hunger Games earned $2.5 million less than Lionsgate had originally estimated and in spring 2010, another Marvel superhero movie, Jon Favreau's Iron Man 2, grossed $5.5 million less than Paramount had initially claimed.

The Avengers' ticket sales behind The Dark Knight, Twilight movies

Now, if you apply the true measure of a movie's box office success — ticket sales — on its first day out The Avengers lagged behind a handful of other movies (besides Deathly Hallows 2). The percentage of The Avengers' 3D ticket sales is unclear, but let's say it was a modest 50 percent, adding an average of 30 percent to the film's ticket price. That would bring The Avengers' box office take (to reflect the actual number of tickets sold) down to a little over $70m, placing it behind both New Moon and Breaking Dawn 1, in addition to Christopher Nolan / Christian Bale's The Dark Knight (approx. $73.5 million in 2012 dollars).

Officially budgeted at $220m (not including another $100m+ in marketing / distribution expenses), The Avengers features Captain America: The First Avenger's Chris Evans as Captain America, Sherlock Holmes' Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man, Shutter Island's Mark Ruffalo as the Incredible Hulk, We Bought a Zoo's Scarlett Johansson as the Black Widow, and Snow White and the Huntsman's Chris Hemsworth as Thor.

Also: The Bourne Legacy's Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, The Deep Blue Sea's Tom Hiddleston as Loki, The Storm Awaits' Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill, Pulp Fiction's Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Shakespeare in Love's Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts, and Much Ado About Nothing's Clark Gregg as agent Phil Coulson.

And finally: Stellan Skarsgård, Powers Boothe, Alexis Denisof, veteran Jenny Agutter (Walkabout / Logan's Run), and Deep End director / Roman Polanski's Knife in the Water screenwriter Jerzy Skolimowski, in addition to the voices of Paul Bettany and Lou Ferrigno.

Cobie Smulders / The Avengers photo: Zade Rosenthal / Walt Disney Studios.

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