Todd Phillips’ R-rated DC villain movie Joker arrived on tracking Thursday with an indexed first choice among all audiences in the low 20s among moviegoers that exceeded a mix of both superhero movies and R-rated fare including Batman v. Superman, Suicide Squad, It, It Chapter Two, Logan, Venom, Halloween, Us, John Wick: Chapter 3 and more.
That’s a huge number and speaks to Warner Bros’ cool, hip positioning of this very dark take on the most notorious villain in the Batman canon, plus the great critical momentum that Joker has accumulated coming out of the fall film festival season. Ahead of its October 4 opening, it has won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, notched a 78% fresh Rotten Tomatoes score out of TIFF, and Joaquin Phoenix has solidified himself as the leading Best Actor contender this awards season.
All of this suggests an average opening of $90 million off one box office projection service’s report, which would rep a new opening record for the month of October, beating last year’s Venom ($80.2M). Another tracking service this morning had Joker‘s opening at $82M. Yes, Venom was a PG-13 film. However, two weekends later, Universal’s Halloween, a R-rated movie, became October’s second-best debut of all time with $76.2M. So, it’s possible Joker can get to that $90M level.
At present, Joker is a male-driven movie with a first choice male 25+ figure as high as Batman v. Superman and 3 times John Wick Chapter 3, and a male under 25 first choice figure that’s a tad higher than BvS, and double Logan‘s.
Keep in mind, Joker is a very different R-rated comic-book film, and Phillips (and Phoenix) portray the subject matter in such a realistic way, it’s easy for a moviegoer to forget it’s a Batman movie while watching it. We had heard earlier this week from those close to Joker that an opening in the $65M-$80M range is more the expectation, and that just might be the case once fanboys walk away from this film. Logan was a Western and Dirty Harry-like movie. Joker is a journey inside a madman’s distorted mind and his skewed view of the world around him with echoes of Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and King of Comedy. The pic is set against the Ronald Reagan 1980s era when social services were shut down, sending those suffering mental challenges onto the streets.
Again, the lofty projection now for Joker speaks to Warners’ ability to excite moviegoers: This past weekend if you were sitting in a showing of It Chapter Two, it wasn’t unusual to hear positive buzz in the auditorium after the Joker trailer played.
In recent box office history, many like to give credit to Fox’s Deadpool and Logan for upping comic book fare to an R-rated level. However, before those pics, Warners released DC’s Watchmen in 2009 and Dark Horse’s 300 in 2007 with R-ratings that opened well, to $55.2M and $70.9M, respectively. Going way back, among adult-rated comic-book big-screen fare, there was Fritz the Cat which was rated X, and Heavy Metal in 1981, but those were cult pics, not built for the masses.
The top openings for R-rated pics based on comic books are Deadpool ($132.4M), Deadpool 2 ($125.5M), Logan ($88.4M), 300 ($70.9M) and Watchmen ($55.2M).