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LOS ANGELES -- Iron Man and his fellow avengers are off to a solid start as they bring their save-the-world act to U.S. theaters.

"The Avengers" launched domestically early Friday with $18.7 million from midnight screenings. That puts it at No. 8 all-time for midnight debuts, just behind the $19.7 million start for "The Hunger Games" in March.

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But it's well under half the amount for the No. 1 midnight draw, $43.5 million for last fall's "Harry Potter" finale.

The "Harry Potter" finale also went on to the biggest domestic opening weekend ever with $169.2 million.

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While "The Avengers" started modestly compared with the last "Harry Potter" flick, it still may end up among the top weekend openings ever. "The Hunger Games" followed its midnight start with a $152.3 million debut weekend.

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