Celebs & Events

'Joker' Sets A New Box Office October Record

'Joker' Sets A New Box Office October Record

Variety.com: Warner Bros.’ “Joker” laughed its way to a new record at the domestic box office.

Despite mounting controversy and security concerns, the R-rated comic-book movie scored an even bigger debut than the studio initially reported, bowing to $96.2 million from 4,374 North American theaters over the weekend. Even with Sunday estimates of $93.5 million, “Joker” now stands as the biggest October launch of all time. Those ticket sales easily crushed the benchmark previously set last year by Sony’s superhero tentpole “Venom” with $80 million.

Directed by Todd Phillips and starring Joaquin Phoenix, “Joker” has been the subject of scrutiny in weeks leading up to its release over fears that the disturbing origin story of Batman’s infamous foe could inspire violence. However, those anxieties didn’t deter moviegoers from turning out en masse to see what all the fuss was about. Audiences gave the film a B+ CinemaScore. Well over half of ticket buyers were under the age of 35, a sector that gave “Joker” an A- CinemaScore.

Overseas, “Joker” also arrived ahead of projections with a massive $152.2 million from 73 international markets for a global debut of $248.4 million. Imax screens accounted for $16.5 million of worldwide ticket sales.

“Joker” has inspired waves of headlines over apprehensions that its depiction of a mentally ill assassin could incite violence, prompting movie theaters across the country to take extra security precautions. New York and Los Angeles police increased their presence around multiplexes, and exhibition owners outlawed costumes and face masks in some venues. The industry started to make some of these moves following the 2012 mass shooting in Aurora, Colo. that took place during a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” and left 12 people dead and 70 injured. Members of families affected by the Aurora shooting had spoken against “Joker.”

Jeff Goldstein, Warner’s president of domestic distribution, told Variety the studio’s marketing emphasized the fact that “Joker” is a dark R-rated drama.

“People knew what the movie was and the noise in the background did not slow it down,” he said. “It’s a thought-provoking film. We are enormously proud of Todd Phillips and the whole marketing team.”

Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst with Comscore, says “Joker” had a stronger start than expected because buzzy word-of-mouth since its premiere at the Venice Film Festival put it on audience’s radars. In a surprise victory, “Joker” took home the top prize at this year’s Venice Film Festival, with critics lauding Phoenix’s borderline unsettling take on Batman’s arch nemesis.

“Not only did ‘Joker’ over-perform in North America but also internationally where the acclaim, buzz, and controversy surrounding the film resonated strongly with moviegoers who put the film at the top of their cinematic priority list,” he said. “Movies that become part of the general conversation due to their controversial nature are often those that transcend their status as a movie to become a cultural event and this is exactly what happened with ‘Joker.'”