Joker: Movie Breaks Box-Office Records, Despite (or Because of) Controversy

Joker, starring Joaquin Phoenix in a dazzling, multi-faceted performance, scored a record $13.3 million on Thursday night previews.

As of today, Phoenix is the frontrunner for the 2019 Best Actor Oscar.  If he wins, he will join the company of the late Heath Ledger, who earned the 2008 Best Supporting Actor Oscar for playing the same character (as a mature individual).

After taking home $39.9 million in Friday domestic ticket sales — the biggest October opening day ever — the R-rated supervillain film is eyeing a huge $92 million weekend total.

That’s on the higher end of initial box office projections, which saw the film debuting in the $80 million to $95 million range. Either way, the film is likely to beat previous October opening weekend record holder “Venom,” which opened to $80.3 million last year.

Joker has generated widespread controversy for its villainous depiction of evil, prompting some theaters to increase security.

Family members of the 2012 Aurora shooting victims — a mass shooting that occurred at a screening of “The Dark Knight Rises — a letter to Warner CEO Ann Sarnoff expressing concerns about the film’s release. Although the families ultimately refrained from calling for “Joker” to be pulled from release, they did say the movie’s “sympathetic origin story… gave us pause.”

As of today, Phoenix is the frontrunner for the 2019 Best Actor Oscar.  If he wins, he will join the company of the late Heath Ledger, who earned the 2008 Best Supporting Actor Oscar for playing the same character (as a mature individual).

The figure is above the $10 million in previews that was earned a year ago by Venom, which posted an $80 million opening weekend — both records for October.

It’s the biggest preview number since The Lion King earned $23 million in July and portends a potential record opening.

Joker is forecast for a massive debut in the $80 million to $95 million range from 4,374 North American theaters for Warner.

The R-rated Joker is directed by Todd Phillips from a screenplay he wrote with Scott Silver about a failed stand-up comedian who becomes a psychopathic criminal.

Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Bill Camp and Marc Maron also star.

Concerns have been raised about the violence-laden film detailing the life and conduct of a mass killer.  New York and Los Angeles police are deploying officers to theaters screening the film this weekend.

Joker won the Golden Lion, the Venice Film Festival’s highest prize, on August 31, but the picture has divided film critics. While Phoenix’s performance has been lauded, the movie’s dark tone and over-the-top violence have generated negative responses.

Joker currently has a 69% score from critics on Rotten Tomatoes.

Joker has made nearly $25 million in international previews and early showings on Wednesday and Thursday from 47 markets on Thursday.  It is being launched in another 26 markets on Friday.

Joker broke the October presales record on the Fandango online ticketing site, comprising more than 60% of Friday online sales.

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