When it comes to evaluating the financial performance of top movies, it isn’t about what a film grosses at the box office. The true tale is told when production budgets, P&A, talent participations and other costs collide with box office grosses and ancillary revenues from VOD to DVD and TV. To get close to that mysterious end of the equation, Deadline is repeating our Most Valuable Blockbuster tournament for 2019, using data culled by seasoned and trusted sources.
The billion-dollar grossing success of this movie surprised everyone including Warner Bros and the pic’s own director Todd Phillips. The intent was to make a smart, R-rated movie that would elevate Warner Bros’ DC movies in a way that 20th Century’s Logan had accomplished previously. Joker, a movie about DC’s most famous villain painted as a disenfranchised, Travis Bickle-type in a Gotham mirroring 1980s Ronald Reagan-era New York, initially spurred fears about copycat shootings and security concerns at theaters nationwide (one multiplex briefly closed down over opening weekend due to credible threats). Given the risky conceit, Warner Bros brought in financial partners Bron Studios and Village Roadshow to cover the $70 million budget at 25% apiece. Because of Joker‘s R rating, few thought it could emulate the October opening record of Sony/Marvel’s PG Venom a year before, which posted $80.2 million and $207.4M worldwide. Nonetheless, Warner Bros’ brass believed the first weekend in October was an ideal time to launch the pic, not because Venom had already broken the mold but rather having had success with another blockbuster awards contender in that spot: 2013’s Gravity. The one guarantee for Joker coming away from its critically acclaimed premieres at Venice and Toronto last year was that Joaquin Phoenix’s turn as the Joker was Oscar-bound; indeed it was, with the actor taking home the trophy for Best Actor in February. Joker defanged Venom’s records with a $96.2M domestic and $248.4M global opening. Looking back and commenting on how Joker spoke to the greater world, Phillips told us at Deadline’s The Contenders New York: “Some people see it as an indictment of America and other people see it as a mirror for what’s going on in their country, both with the lack of compassion and with the wealth and equality issues.”
THE BOX SCORE
Here are the costs and revenues as our experts see them:
THE BOTTOM LINE
The pic’s $1.07 billion global box office, the best ever for a R-rated movie, translated into $830M in global revenue across theatrical rentals, home entertainment and TV. Phillips bet on himself here, taking little upfront for an enormous backend, which some estimate is well north of $70M. I hear Phoenix’s deal was standard with more upfront, and a single percent of profits after cash breakeven, all participations totaling an estimated $105M. After $393M in total costs, our film-finance sources now having all the intel after the pic’s completed run see a net profit of $437M. Warner Bros only gets half of that, with Bron and Village Roadshow splitting the rest.