Box office: 'Joker' surpasses expectations, best-ever October debut

LOS ANGELES, Sonaiya Kelley, Los Angeles Times (tca/dpa)- Warner Bros' "Joker" - despite controversy surrounding the film for weeks - is laughing all the way to the bank with a stellar 93.5-million-dollar opening, replacing "Venom" as the best-ever October debut and the fourth-best R-rated opener ever, according to estimates from measurement firm Comscore. Analysts initially projected the film to earn about 80 million dollars.
The movie grossed 140.5 million dollars in 73 international territories, far exceeding analyst projections of 75 million dollars, for a global cumulative total of 234 million dollars, easily topping "Venom's" 205 million dollars last year. Despite the success of "Joker," the overall box office was down 17.6 per cent from the same weekend in 2018 - in part, because there was nothing to match "A Star Is Born," which opened in second place a year ago with 42.9 million dollars. The year-to-date box office now trails last year by 5 per cent.

Written and directed by Todd Phillips, the latest DC Comics entry is a relentlessly dark origin story about a man who goes on to become one of the most infamous comic-book villains in history.
In "Joker," which draws distinct inspiration from Martin Scorsese's "Taxi Driver" and "The King of Comedy," Joaquin Phoenix plays a failed stand-up comedian named Arthur Fleck who is as much a product of Gotham as his frequent nemesis Batman.
The picture and its star are already considered to be awards contenders despite the controversy surrounding the film's tone and its graphic depictions of violence. When it premiered at the Venice Film Festival a month ago, it won the top honour, the Golden Lion.
Fear that the movie could inspire an Aurora, Colorado-style mass shooting led the Los Angeles Police Department to say it would increase "visibility" of law enforcement during the picture's opening weekend.
"The controversy and concern raging around the film clearly enhanced and did not detract from its appeal to film fans and movie buffs around the world who made this the ultimate water-cooler movie," Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst at Comscore, said Sunday. "The massive global performance was the result of a perfect storm of factors that made it an unmissable cinematic event and a spark for a cultural debate that only served to fuel interest in the film."
The 60-million-dollar movie divided critics but was received well overall with a B-plus CinemaScore (a rarity for a film so dark in tone) and a 70-per-cent "fresh" rating on review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes.
This is a career-best opening for both Phoenix and Phillips. Phillips' previous best opening was for 2011's "The Hangover: Part II," with 85.9 million dollars, while Phoenix's previous record was for 2002's "Signs." The actor had not been in a film that opened in wide release since 2007's "We Own the Night." The majority of his movies since then have finished under 5 million dollars at the domestic box office.
Moviegoers have consistently proved that there is an appetite for R-rated comics-inspired pictures. The comedy-inflected "Deadpool" opened with 132.4 million dollars in 2016 on its way to 783.1 million dollars globally, while 2017's "Logan" opened with 88.4 million dollars before earning 619 million dollars globally during its theatrical run.
The film's great debut is a much-needed boost for Warner Bros, which has struggled with a spate of commercial disappointments this year, including "The Sun Is Also a Star," "Shaft," "The Kitchen," "Blinded by the Light" and "The Goldfinch." Only "Shazam," "Pokemon Detective Pikachu" and the September release "It: Chapter Two" have seen box office success.
"Warner Bros has hit its stride in the post-summer period by mapping out a perfect release calendar strategy that has made the studio a powerhouse this fall," said Dergarabedian.
In second place, Universal's "Abominable" added 12 million dollars in its second weekend (a 42-per-cent drop) for a cumulative 37.8 million dollars.
At number 3, Focus Features' "Downton Abbey" added 8 million dollars in its third weekend for a cumulative 73.6 million dollars.
In fourth place, STX Entertainment's "Hustlers" added 6.3 million dollars in its fourth weekend for a cumulative 91.3 million dollars.
Rounding out the top five, Warner Bros' "It: Chapter Two" added 5.4 million dollars in its fifth weekend for a cumulative 202.2 million dollars.
In sixth place, Fox's "Ad Astra" added 4.6 million dollars in its third weekend for a cumulative 43.7 million dollars.
At number 7, LD Entertainment and Roadside Attractions' "Judy" added 997 locations and 4.4 million dollars in its second weekend (a 52-per-cent increase) for a cumulative 8.9 million dollars.
In eighth place, Lionsgate's "Rambo: Last Blood" added 3.6 million dollar in its third weekend for a cumulative 39.8 million dollars.
At number 9, Yash Raj's action thriller "War" opened with 1.5 million dollars across 304 screens over the weekend for a cumulative 2 million dollars since its debut Wednesday. The film, which stars Hrithik Roshan, set an opening day record for a Bollywood title in India.
Rounding out the top 10, Universal's "Good Boys" added 900,000 dollars in its eighth weekend for a cumulative 82 million dollars.
In limited release, Fox Searchlight opened "Lucy in the Sky" in 37 theaters to 55,000 dollars for a per-screen average of 1,486 dollars. It earned an abysmal 28-per-cent "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Netflix opened the Eddie Murphy comedy "Dolomite Is My Name" theatrically ahead of its October 25 launch on the streaming service, but the company does not release opening-week grosses. It earned a 98-per-cent "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Sony Classics released Pedro Almodovar's drama "Pain and Glory" in four locations to 160,087 dollars for a strong per-screen average of 40,022 dollars. It earned a 96-per-cent "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
This week, United Artists Releasing unveils the animated "The Addams Family," Paramount opens the Will Smith-led "Gemini Man" and Lionsgate debuts the comedy "Jexi." Neon premieres the drama "Parasite" in limited release.

Monday, October 7th 2019
Sonaiya Kelley, Los Angeles Times (tca/dpa)

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