“Joker” just put a smile on its face, as the supervillain origin story starring Joaquin Phoenix earned a record $13.3 million on Thursday night, beating out the previous record for the month of October set last year by Sony’s “Venom.”
Warner Bros. and DC Films are projecting that “Joker” will earn between $75-80 million when it opens on 4,300-plus screens this weekend, but independent trackers are suggesting it could laugh its way all the way to the bank in the $80-95 million range.
The other supervillain spinoff movie “Venom” last year made $10 million in its Thursday previews opposite a crowded weekend at the box office that also launched “A Star Is Born.” But by trouncing that total, “Joker” has a chance to set the all time record for an October opening weekend, with “Venom” also currently holding that title at $80.2 million.
“Joker,” however, is rated R and has been saddled with fears that it could incite violence and is overly sympathetic to a subculture of dangerous, shut-in men. A closer comparison for the film might be “Logan,” which opened March 2017 and also had an R-rating. That film made $9.5 million in Thursday previews and opened to $88.4 million.
“Joker” also clobbered “Venom” and “Halloween” in presales on Fandango, another record for October, and it’s further outpacing other DC titles like “Shazam!,” “Aquaman” and “Wonder Woman” at the same point in the sales cycle on the ticketing website.
Todd Phillips directs the gritty character study that stars Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck, a struggling stand-up comedian in Gotham City who turns to violence and becomes the Joker after crumbling under the weight of his emotional burdens. The film pays homage to Martin Scorsese films like “Taxi Driver” and “The King of Comedy,” and it co-stars Robert De Niro, Marc Maron, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen, Shea Whigham and Bill Camp.
Phillips also co-wrote the film with Scott Silver and produced it with Bradley Cooper and Emma Tillinger Koskoff. The film is a Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment production in association with Village Roadshow and Bron Creative.