There is only one question for box office pundits to wrestle with this weekend -- not which film will wind up as No. 1 -- it goes without saying that The Avengers is a shoo-in for that spot -- but will the movie set an all-time opening-weekend record? To do so it has to beat last year's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 , which amassed $169.2 million. It has a long way to go to accomplish that feat. Deathly Hallows earned $43.5 million during its midnight screenings on the first day of its release. Disney reported early today (Friday) that The Avengers earned less than half that amount -- $19.74 million. Ray Subers at the BoxOfficeMojo website observes that the previous films feature the superheroes in The Avengers have amounted to "the most elaborate and expensive marketing campaign of all-time." The film had no problem blasting away Potter records in a number of countries during the past week and has already earned more than $280 million abroad -- and that's without China and Russia, where it opens this weekend. The film is also getting a boost from solid reviews in most major-market U.S. newspapers. An exception is The New York Times , whose lead film critic, A.O. Scott, called the film's "failures ... significant and dispiriting." That ignited an angry tweet from co-star Samuel L. Jackson "#Avengers fans, NY Times critic AO Scott needs a new job! Let's help him find one! One he can ACTUALLY do!" In response, Scott told, "If I'm going to dish out criticism, I should be able to take it," he tells E! News. "But I must say that I was touched at how many people on Twitter had my back, and more importantly how many were eager to defend the idea that honest and independent criticism has a place, even when the targets are superhero blockbusters and big movie stars."