DC comic book movies have a new champion in the form of Joker, which has shattered box office records for October.
The dark and disturbing Joaquin Phoenix thriller, which recounts the origins of the Clown Prince of Crime, has opened to a mighty $234 million worldwide – nearly five times its $50 million budget.
Breaking this down, this accounts for $93.5 million from America and $140.5 million from international markets. Website Box Office Mojo states: "With an estimated $93.5 million, Warner Bros.' Joker delivered the largest October domestic opening ever, topping the $80.25 million opening for Venom just last year, not to mention coming very close to the $93.8 million opening for Justice League in 2017, which it could very easily top once actuals come in on Monday."
They add: "Joker's performance is also the fourth largest domestic opening ever for an R-rated film and comes up just shy of becoming only the fourth R-rated film to ever open with $100+ million. Heading into the weekend the film had already broken a record, becoming the widest October opening ever, playing in 4,374 locations and on Thursday night it delivered an October record for preview grosses, bringing in $13.3 million. Now attention will turn to how well it will be able to holdover next week."
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It goes to show that Phoenix's acclaimed performance is no laughing matter. The actor is drawing Oscar buzz for his tortured portrayal of Arthur Fleck, an aspiring stand-up comic who is abused and humiliated during the daily drudgery of his life in Gotham City. Eventually, the combination of the environment and Fleck's own inner demons (including a neurological condition that causes him to laugh uncontrollably) hastens his transformation into the titular villain.
The movie is directed by Todd Phillips, best known for directing the crass, though financially successful, Hangover movies. The film owes a clear debt to Martin Scorsese classics Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy, and has been hailed in some quarters as a breakthrough for comic book cinema. However, the film has also generated controversy over its depiction of violence, with some alleging that it will have a damaging impact on audiences.
Then again, did we ever expect a movie about this character to go down easily?