send in the clowns
October 25, 2019

Joker isn't nearly done tearing through box office records.

The DC comic book film has officially become the highest-grossing R-rated movie in box office history, having grossed $788 million, The Hollywood Reporter writes. This breaks the $783 million worldwide record previously held by Deadpool, unadjusted for inflation. Deadpool 2 also grossed $785 million worldwide, but this includes a subsequent re-release.

After hitting theaters mired in controversy, Joker has been continuously impressing at the box office, getting started by shattering the record for biggest opening weekend ever for an October release. Now, it's racking up worldwide grosses on par with a major superhero action blockbuster, despite the film being a slower-paced character study in the vein of Taxi Driver, and despite not even having a release in China, where superhero films often rack up a huge chunk of change.

In fact, Joker, which reportedly cost about $60 million to make, will take in more than $400 million in profits, Deadline reports. That would make it nearly as profitable as Avengers: Infinity War, Deadline notes, a film that grossed far more but also had a significantly higher budget.

Now the question becomes whether Joker, set to surge past $800 million, can actually break $1 billion at the worldwide box office, becoming only the second non-Disney movie of the year to do so. Box office prognosticators once thought that impossible, but Warner Bros. may have the last laugh. Brendan Morrow

October 6, 2019

Joker put on a happy face this weekend with a record-shattering debut.

The dark origin story from Warner Bros. and DC Films took in $93.5 million in its debut, the biggest opening weekend ever for a film released in October, Variety reports. The previous record-holder was 2018's Venom, Sony's standalone film about the titular Spider-Man villain that opened to $80.2 million, meaning this is the second year in a row that the October box office record has been broken by a film centered around a comic book antagonist.

Clearly, the controversy surrounding Joker didn't set it back. The film has sparked criticism in recent weeks over its sympathetic depiction of a loner who lashes out at society, with some voicing concerns that it could inspire violence. Certain theaters around the country saw increased police presence for the movie's opening weekend, with one in California closing down Thursday night due to a credible threat.

But audiences still turned out in droves to the point that Joker made roughly the same in its opening weekend as the DC team-up blockbuster Justice League, despite being a slow-paced, R-rated character study with a reported budget of $55 million. Now, with plenty of buzz surrounding Joaquin Phoenix's performance, prepare for Oscar voters to send in the clowns to the 2020 Academy Awards. Brendan Morrow

October 4, 2019

Joker's early box office numbers will surely put a smile on Warner Bros.' face.

The Batman villain's dark origin story took in $13.3 million in Thursday night previews, a new record for an October release, Deadline reports. The previous record-holder was last year's Venom, which opened with $10 million in Thursday previews, although as Deadline notes, Joker screenings started an hour earlier.

Still, the $13 million figure is quite impressive, especially considering Joker is rated R while Venom was rated PG-13. This could put Joker on its way to set a new record for biggest October opening weekend of all time, a title once again held by Venom, which pulled in $80.2 million in its debut.

The strong start is despite — or perhaps because of — the fact that Joker is among the year's most controversial films. After earning raves at its Venice International Film Festival premiere, the film began to pick up backlash as critics accused of it irresponsibly glamorizing its central character in a way that some worried could inspire real-life violence. Theaters have taken precautions for its opening weekend amid this anxiety with additional security, while the FBI said it was monitoring online posts around the movie, although it said it hasn't received credible threats.

Amid the criticism, Warner Bros. released a statement saying that the film is not "an endorsement of real-world violence of any kind." Director Todd Phillips has also argued that showing the real implications of violence makes the film "very responsible," although he generated additional controversy by in an interview railing against "woke culture" and saying backlash to it inspired the film.

But the result has been one Joker headline after another for weeks, and as questions swirled about whether these controversies and fears would suppress or boost turnout, it seems the answer may be the latter. The idea to make Joker was reportedly contentious even inside Warner Bros., but no one's laughing now. Brendan Morrow

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