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 $US200.3 million ($A195.75 million) debut.
It's by far the biggest opening ever, shooting past the previous record of $US169.2 million for the debut of last year's Harry Potter finale.
The Avengers added $US151.5 million overseas over the weekend to bring its total to $US441.5 million since it began opening internationally a week earlier.
That raised the film's worldwide haul to $US641.8 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 $US200 million in a single weekend.
A $US200 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.
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.
Before the Harry Potter finale, 2008's The Dark Knight had held the revenue record with a $US158.4 million debut. Before that, the record-holder was 2007's Spider-Man 3 with $US151.1 million.
So anticipation for those two films could rival that of The Avengers.
Along with the superhero films, Hollywood's summer lineup includes the action tales Men in Black 3, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Battleship, Total Recall and Prometheus, director Ridley Scott's return to the sci-fi territory of his horror hit Alien.
Big family fare includes the animated adventures Brave, from Toy Story creator Pixar Animation, and the sequels Ice Age: Continental Drift and Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted.
The comedy lineup features Adam Sandler's That's My Boy, Will Ferrell's The Campaign and Sacha Baron Cohen's The Dictator.
Estimated ticket sales are for Friday through to Sunday at US and Canadian theatres, according to Hollywood.com. Where available, latest international numbers are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.
North American Weekend Box Office
1. The Avengers, $US200.3 million ($151.5 million international).
2. Think Like a Man, $US8 million.
3. The Hunger Games, $US5.7 million ($US4.3 million international).
4. The Lucky One, $US5.5 million ($US5.5 million international).
5. The Pirates! Band of Misfits, $US5.4 million ($US2.6 million international).
6. The Five-Year Engagement, $US5.1 million ($US2.3 million international).
7. The Raven, $US2.5 million.
8. Safe, $US2.47 million ($US2.2 million international).
9. Chimpanzee, $US2.4 million.
10. The Three Stooges, $US1.8 million.