Box Office: 'Joker' Dancing to Record $95M U.S. Debut

Joker Still - Publicity - H 2019
Niko Tavernise/Warner Bros.

The anti-hero origin pic is setting a new benchmark for the month of October despite increased security at theaters across the country.

Security concerns certainly aren't slowing down Joker so far. The dark R-rated supervillain movie lit up the Friday box office with a massive $39.9 million, putting it on course for the biggest October opening of all time with as much as $95 million.

The Warner Bros. pic, directed by Todd Phillips and starring Joaquin Phoenix, easily beat Venom's first Friday last year ($32.5 million). For the full weekend, Venom debuted to $80.3 million domestically to take the October crown.

Overseas, Joker could approach $100 million in its launch. If projections are right, the pic could rake in $190M globally through Sunday, give or take.

Joker has sparked widespread headlines for its nihilistic themes and violence, prompting theaters across the country to ramp up security and warn parents that the film isn't an ordinary superhero pic (the usual DC title card doesn't even appear in the credits).

Nevertheless, interest in the film has only continued to increase, especially among males, who made up nearly 65 percent of Friday ticket buyers, according to PostTrak. Joker played to an ethnically diverse crowd; 42 percent of ticket buyers were Caucasian, followed by Hispanics (25 percent), Asians/Other (17 percent) and African Americans (16 percent). The majority of the audience was between ages 18 and 34. Those under 17 repped 8 percent, normal for an R-rated pic.

Heading into the weekend, tracking showed Joker debuting to $80 million to $84 million. (Warners was more conservative in its forecast, suggesting $75 million to $80 million.) Audiences gave the film a B+ CinemaScore.

Weekend Box Office 10/06/19

3-Day Weekend Box Office Estimates - Source: Comscore
Weekend Cume Theaters Week
1. Joker $93.5M $93.5M 4,374 1
2. Abominable $12.0M $37.8M 4,248 2
3. Downton Abbey $8.0M $73.6M 3,548 3
4. Hustlers $6.3M $91.3M 3,030 4
5. IT: Chapter Two $5.4M $202.2M 3,163 5
6. Ad Astra $4.6M 43.72M 2,910 3
7. Judy $4.4M $8.9M 1,458 2
8. Rambo: Last Blood $3.6M $39.8M 2,900 3
9. War $1.5M $2.0M 305 1
10. Good Boys $900K $82.0M 1,006 8

Village Roadshow and Bron Studios each have a stake in the film, which cost north of $60 million to produce before marketing.

Joker also opens in earnest overseas timed to its U.S. launch. On Friday it earned an impressive $32.7 million from 73 markets for for a three-day total of $57.2 million.

The movie, charting the evolution of the titular character from a disenfranchised, mentally troubled misfit into a homicidal maniac who incites mayhem, made the rounds at the fall film festivals in search of awards attention. Phoenix, in particular, has drawn praise for his performance.

Joker is playing in more than 4,374 theaters in North America, the widest location count ever for an October release.

Many cinemas in the U.S. were checking IDs (as well as bags). An R rating means that anyone under the age of 17 must be accompanied by a parent or adult. "This is not your typical superhero movie and is only intended for mature audiences," read a note posted on the door of an AMC theater in Illinois. Another sign reminded customers that face masks, face painting and toy weapons are not allowed, per AMC's standing policy.

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, based in Texas, also weighed in, posting on Facebook, "Parental warning (this is not a joke). Joker is rated R and for good reason. There’s lots of very, very rough language, brutal violence, and overall bad vibes."

"It’s a gritty, dark, and realistic Taxi Driver-esque depiction of one man’s descent into madness," the post continued. "It’s not for kids, and they won’t like it, anyway."

Oct. 4, 12:45 p.m. Updated with revised weekend estimates.
Oct. 5, 7:30 a.m Updated with revised weekend estimates.