‘Joker’ Laughs Its Way To A Record Opening

Warner’s controversial drama Joker wasn’t clowning around this weekend as the R-rated origin film of the popular DC Comics villain stormed the global box office, setting several box office records in the process.

Directed by Todd Phillips (The Hangover) and starring Joaquin Phoenix in the title role, Joker arrived in 4,374 theaters Thursday night where it went on to gross an estimated $93.5 million in domestic ticket sales. The debut for the $55 million production easily surpassed the $80.2 million earned by Venom one year ago while also setting career-best openings for Phillips, Phoenix and co-star Robert DeNiro.

Joker’s daily box office breakdown was $13.3 million from Thursday night previews, $26.2 million from opening day on Friday, $32.7 million from Saturday and an estimated $21.3 million for Sunday. A whopping 64% of the opening weekend audience was male, with 68% of that demographic being over the age of 25.

While familiarity with the Joker character was the driving factor for the film’s big box office start, the massive amount of (unnecessary) controversy created online and by the mainstream news media was also a major player in selling tickets.

Ever since the film won the top prize at the Venice Film Festival back in September, Joker has been a lightning rod of criticism -and fuel for fear mongering generated by network news outlets- over its use of violence, which sparked fears of mass shootings in theaters playing the film. As time drew closer to Joker‘s opening night, the controversy only got louder. Naturally, this only helped turn the film into a “must see” event. One could say that Warner had a hand in fueling said controversy in an attempt to sell more tickets. But then again, Hollywood would never do something like that, would they?

Whoever created the “sky is falling” hysteria is a moot point now, as it certainly helped launch the film. But will lukewarm feedback from critics and ticket buyers curtail the film’s box office longevity? On the review front, Joker received a somewhat split reaction. Critics gave the film a 69% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 58/100 on Metacritic. A majority of viewers polled on CinemaScore also liked -but didn’t love- the grim origin tale, giving it a “B+” rating.

Overseas, Joker laughed its way to a terrific $140 million this weekend. South Korea was the top market with $16 million, followed by the United Kingdom ($14 million), Mexico ($13 million) and Russia ($10 million). Brazil and Japan rounded out the top five foreign markets with $7 million each.

Elsewhere on the chart, Universal/Dreamworks’ Abominable dipped 44% in its second weekend on 4,248 screens to bring in an estimated $12 million. After ten days, Abominable has brought in $37.8 million and could be looking at a final domestic total around the $70 million mark. Internationally, Abominable has pocketed $38.5 million so far.

Moviegoers continued to visit Downton Abbey in its third weekend on 3,548 screens where it brought in an estimated $8 million. Down 44%, the new domestic total for Abbey stands at $73.6 million. The Focus Features hit film is still on course to finish around the $100 million mark. Overseas, Downton has earned $62 million.

Another low-budget adult hit cruising towards the $100 million mark is STX’s Hustlers with an estimated $6.3 million from 3,030 screens. Down 45% in its fourth weekend, Hustlers has seduced $91.3 million in North America and $19 million from overseas markets.

Rounding out the top five was Warner’s other R-rated blockbuster hit, IT: Chapter Two with an estimated $5.35 million from 3,163 venues. Down 48% in its fifth session, IT: Chapter Two has scared up a great $202.2 million in North America and an additional $234.5 million from the international market.

  1.  Ad Astra (Fox) $4.55 million (-54%); $43.6 million
  2.  Judy (Roadside) $4.44 million (+52%); $8.9 million
  3.  Rambo: Last Blood (Lionsgate) $3.55 million (-59%); $39.8 million
  4.  War (2019) (Yash) $1.581 million; $2 million
  5.  Good Boys (Universal) $900,000 (-56%); $82 million

Next weekend sees the arrival of The Addams Family, Gemini Man and Jexi. While the animated Addams Family should open to solid numbers, they won’t be strong enough to unseat the second weekend of Joker.

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