Box Office: 'Joker' Has the Last Laugh With Record $96M U.S. Bow, $248M Globally

Warner Bros. Pictures
'Joker'

The nihilistic R-rated pic exceeded expectations despite heightened security at domestic theaters; it also raked in $152.2 million overseas.

Todd Phillips' Joker had the last laugh in its box office debut, earning a huge $96 million domestically from 4,374 theaters to set a new opening record for the month of October despite heightened security at cinemas across the U.S.

That's up from Sunday's estimated $93.5 million, which was likewise a record. And international numbers came in notably higher than Sunday estimates, by more than $10 million.

The dark, R-rated supervillain movie starring Joaquin Phoenix as a mentally ill misfit turned homicidal maniac did even more business overseas, raking in $152.2 million from more than 70 markets for a global start of $248.2 million (it doesn't yet have a release date in China). Both figures likewise set new benchmarks for the month.

In North America, Joker bested last year's Venom, which started off with $80.3 million domestically. To boot, the controversial origin pic danced to the best three-day bow of all time for an R-rated title, as well as boasting the fifth-biggest weekend launch of 2019 to date. It is also Warner' biggest debut in two years.

Joker — far from an ordinary superhero pic but an origin story laced with realism — has sparked widespread headlines and concern for its nihilistic themes and violence, prompting cinemas and police departments to ramp up security and remind patrons that face paint, masks and toy weapons aren't allowed. Theaters are also checking IDs and informing guests that the film's rating is a "hard R," and that anyone under 17 must be accompanied by a parent or adult when buying a ticket.

Only 8 percent of ticket buyers were between the ages of 13 and 17, according to PostTrak's exit polling service (figures aren't available for those 12 and under). Overall, males made up 62 percent of the audience. Joker played to an ethnically diverse crowd: 44 percent of ticket buyers were Caucasian, followed by Hispanics (24 percent), African-Americans (16 percent) and Asians/Other (14 percent). The majority of the audience (65 percent) was between the ages of 18 and 34.

Audiences gave the pic a B+ CinemaScore, while its Rotten Tomatoes freshness rating stands at 69 percent. Village Roadshow and Bron Studios each have a stake in Joker, which cost north of $60 million to produce before marketing.

Among holdovers, the family animated pic Abominable placed No. 2 at the North American box office over the weekend with $12 million in its sophomore outing for a 10-day domestic total of $37.8 million. Overseas, the DreamWorks Animation and Pearl Studios co-production opened in China to $11.2 million, while earning $12 million from other markets. That puts the pic's foreign tally at $38.5 million, while globally its cume stands at $76.3 million.

Focus Features' Downton Abbey came in third domestically with $8 million. The adult-skewing movie has earned $135.4 million globally to date, including $73.6 million in the U.S.

STXfilms' Hustlers, which landed in fourth place, took in $6.3 million for a domestic tally of $91.3 million and $110 million globally.

It: Chapter Two rounded out the top five with another $5.4 million for a domestic cume of $202.5 million.

At the specialty/awards box office, Judy moved up to No. 7 as it expanded into a total of 1,458 theaters in North America in its second weekend. The Judy Garland biopic, which stars Renee Zellweger, grossed an estimated $4.4 million domestically for an early total of nearly $9 million for Roadside Attractions and LD Entertainment.

New offerings included the poorly reviewed Lucy in the Sky, which stars Natalie Portman and was produced by Reese Witherspoon. From Fox Searchlight, the astronaut drama crash-landed in its debut in 37 locations with a location average of less than $1,500.

Meanwhile, Pedro Almodóvar's Pain and Glory fared far better with a location average of $40,022 from four cinemas in Los Angeles and New York. The film, from Sony Pictures Classics, stars Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz.

Oct. 7, 7:30 a.m. Updated with revised weekend number for Joker.
Oct. 7, 1 p.m. Updated with revised international weekend number for Joker.