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Warner Bros. Laughing All The Way To The Bank With ‘Joker’: $94M Debut Reps Records For October, Todd Phillips, Joaquin Phoenix & Robert De Niro

Updated, Late Friday PM w/chart: Joker continues to rob a record amount of cash from the October box office with Friday looking at an increased $39.8M, now putting the Warner Bros./Village Roadshow/Bron Studios pic’s 3-day at $94M. One rival distribution source believes that Joker, in play at 17 offshore territories, is heading to a worldwide opening between $188M-$194M. That would be right behind Venom‘s opening October global record of $207.4M.

For director Todd Phillips, Joker reps a career opening record, besting the 3-day domestic start of The Hangover 2 ($85.9M). It’s also an opening record for Joaquin Phoenix,  far exceeding the $60.1M 2002 opening of Signs, and a great major studio comeback for the three time Oscar nominee who has starred of late in a string of indie pics like Mary Magdalene, the Sisters Brothers and You Were Never Really Here. And for Robert De Niro, even though he’s a supporting player in this, Joker reps his biggest domestic B.O. opening of all-time, ahead of Shark Tale ($47.6M).

‘Joker’ Gets Serious With $25M Through Thursday In Early Overseas Play, Heading To $90M+ Weekend Bow

From a distance, some rival studio insiders may say that Warners always had this edgy R-rated DC movie from its Hangover director Phillips and producers Bradley Cooper and Emma Tillinger Koskoff in the bag; that it was an easy 3-point shot at the B.O. with the groundswell of raves out of TIFF and Venice, the Golden Lion win at the latter, and tracking’s full-on belief in a $80M-$90M opening.

Batman V Superman Box Office

But with Universal pulling its Blue State vs. Red State Blumhouse thriller The Hunt from theaters in the wake of a spree of late summer mass shootings, it was truly unpredictable how audiences and fanboys would respond to Joker for myriad reasons.

Not so much because of theater safety, rather because Joker takes itself very seriously as a movie, more than any comic-book movie before it. There was always a sense of fantasy in the Christopher Nolan movies, as grounded as they were in their live location settings and gravitas. But here in Joker, Phillips and Phoenix sincerely portray the mind of a twisted, disenfranchised person living in the slums of a 1980s Gotham, a casualty of Reagan economics social service funding cuts for every detail of its reality.  It’s haunting. As I’ve mentioned continually, you forget you’re watching a Batman movie, the pic is so entrenched in how society can bring out the ugly in a person when they’re down in the dumps, with severe repercussions.  After fanboys and critics complained that Zack Snyder’s Batman v. Superman (B CinemaScore, 28% Rotten Tomatoes) was too dark, too slow, which prompted Warners to make the first Suicide Squad more fun in its reshoots, how then were moviegoers going to react to Joker? Without spoiling anything, arguably Arthur Fleck aka Joker is a less redeeming character than Robert De Niro’s Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver. Despite Bickle’s loner attitude, he makes a play in the end to save Jodie Foster’s Iris from the ill people in her life. Arthur isn’t that heroic, rather backs himself into a situation where he’s an anarchist. Still watching Phoenix getting lost in the part, plus Phillips’ gorgeous retro illustration of a 1980s inspired New York City, make Joker a very intriguing ride.

CinemaScore audiences gave Joker a B+ grade tonight with Screen Engine/Comscore’s PostTrak exits still showing 4 stars and a 60% definite recommend. These are solid grades to keep turnstiles spinning even though they’re not perfect scores. A tad more under 25ers came out versus Thursday in updated Friday polls at 38% versus 33%, though 25+ still dominates at 62%. Men under 25 (23%) still love Joker the most at 92% along with females under 25 (14%) at 87%, with Men 25+ still leading (41% with an 81% grade) and women 25+ the third biggest demo of the night at 22% and the least impressed of the four quads at 79%. Updated diversity demos show Hispanics (23% and a 93% grade) and Asians (14% and a 91% grade) giving Joker a bigger thumbs up over Caucasians (42%, 81% grade) and African Americans (17% and a 74% grade).

Joker wins at Venice Film Festival

Many sources tell me that when it comes to Joker‘s success, a lot of credit is owed to Warner Bros. President, Worldwide Marketing of Pictures and Home Entertainment, Blair Rich. I’m told that she saw how Joker could be sold before Phillips shot a single frame. Her talent for positioning films in the market, and cutting through the noise with riveting one-sheet and billboard imagery goes all the way back to 300. The story is that the fate of that visual avant-garde $65M spartan production (which the studio allegedly didn’t get at the time) changed the day Rich showed up to the set in Canada. She saw the pre-production drawings, and immediately understand what Snyder and his team were trying to do. The pic opened to a massive $70.9M stateside in March 2007, and finaled at $210.6M domestic, $456M worldwide. I hear that it’s Rich who encouraged distribution to find a release date for Joker that was in the prime spot of awards season given Joker‘s prestige value. Not to dismiss the hard work of others in the Warner Bros. team in regards to this success, but an all-hands on deck calculated passion was employed to launch this pic at the fall festivals versus the de rigueur deployment at San Diego Comic-Con.

Says RelishMix in their latest social media analytics report, “It’s fair to say that when a casual moviegoer thinks about Joker or any superhero/comic book related film, they don’t really associate these movies with prestigious film festivals and references about awards season. But, when Joker won the Golden Lion, the online discussion changed dramatically.”

Joker was sold in its imagery as a hip, cool film with shots of Phoenix dancing down steps, and the the first trailer dropped out of CinemaCon back in April showed that Joker was the comic-book movie you’ve never seen before, especially at a time when James Mangold, Taika Waititi and James Gunn have changed the game; the Phillips’ film possessed a fun, yet, dark, Scorsese-meets-Frank Miller sensibility.

RelishMix reports that Joker‘s social media universe counts 480M across Facebook, YouTube views, Twitter, Instagram, which though is lower than the standard 654M opening weekend SMU for a comic-book movie, touts an extraordinary  244:1 earned/owned viral rate off two clips on Warners YouTube channel. “These two clips scored an immense volume of engagement, spurred by fan comparisons to other portrayals of the character, and how this film would stand out in tone and story. But the question becomes, is this a superhero movie? When looking at drama/thriller’s usual YT views, Joker at 82K again exceeds the average of 22K. The film’s SMU also outstrips the 82.8M average for a drama/thriller in its opening week.”

“This film deserves a lot of credit for its social campaign, which teased the audience from the very start.  For comparison, Joker has only 16 official clips on its Facebook page and two on WB’s official YT Channel – which is extremely close to the vest compared to other superhero or action/adventure films.  That said, this is one of the most socially engaging films of the year,” further praises RelishMix.

Warners reduced its risk on the movie with two financial partners, Village Roadshow at 25% and Bron Studios at 15%. We hear Joker cost $70M before P&A, but others contend that its net cost is in the $60Ms.

Elsewhere at the box office, two Bollywood films have slotted in the 9th and 10th spots of the chart with Siddharth Anand’s War from Yash Raj and Surrender Reddy’s Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy from Konidela/Sarke Studio. War pits two of India’s biggest action superstars, Hrithik Roshan and Tiger Shroff, in a massive showdown against each other with death-defying action stunts. The film follows an Indian soldier who is assigned to eliminate his former mentor, who had gone rogue. Sye Raa is a historical action epic inspired by the life of Uyyalawada Narasimha Reddy, who revolted against the atrocities of East India Company 10 years before the Sepoy Mutiny in 1857, which was a major threat to British power in the region.

The top 10 based on industry estimates:

Updated, Friday midday: Warner Bros/Village Roadshow/Bron’s R-rated Joker from Todd Phillips is having no problems breaking October box office records. After beating Venom‘s October preview record of $10 million with a $13.3M haul last night, Joker is on his way to busting a new three-day high for the month of $92M after a $39M opening day (which includes those previews).

Yes, that’s an opening-day record for October too, besting Halloween‘s $33M. If Joker‘s three-day estimates remain serious, it will mark the fourth-highest opening for a R-rated pic of all time after Fox’s Deadpool ($132.4M), Deadpool 2 ($125.5M) and New Line/Warner Bros’ It ($123.4M). TBD how high this pic goes…or recesses. What’s clear is that just because a comic-book inspired movie is rated R, doesn’t mean it’s bad business. Moviegoers are thirsting for, and heading to, grittier comic-book movies.

Warners can breath a sigh of relief, especially in the wake of theater security concerns, and a handful of Aurora, CO Dark Knight Rises shooting victims’ families speaking out; I mean, Joker is a truly audacious movie at a time when the nation is divided over gun control, and impacted by mass shootings. Yet, Warners has historically been a ballsy studio with its art, whether it’s A Clockwork Orange, Natural Born Killers or even the guns-a-blazing The Matrix. 

Warners has always known there was gold in this weekend, and has continually tapped it like a slot machine with pics like Gravity ($55.8M), A Star Is Born (as counter-programming to Venom last year, opening at $42.9M) and Annabelle ($37.1M). Sony’s Venom finally broke the dam beating Gravity‘s record for the month, and now Warners has reclaimed it.

There’s some fall school break and college action that helps boost grosses with a combined percentage of the two off today at 7%, rising to 11% on Monday and 21% by next Friday of Columbus Day weekend.

DreamWorks Animation/Pearl Studio’s Abominable will lay claim to second place with $10.4M, off 50% in Weekend 2, for a 10-day total of $36.2M. Third goes to Focus Features’ Downton Abbey with $7.7M, -46% in Weekend 3, for a running total Sunday of $73.3M. Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu’s stripper pic Hustlers stays strong in fourth place in Weekend 4 with $5.9M, -48%, for a running cume on Sunday of $90.9M.

New Line/Warner Bros’ It Chapter Two is at $4.7M, -54% in Weekend 5, for a running total $201.6M.  Roadside Attractions’ Judy remains in tune in Weekend 2, jumping from 461 to 1,458 theaters for $4.3M, +47%, for a running total of $8.8M in sixth place.

UPDATED, 7:15 AM PT Friday: Warner Bros/Bron/Village Roadshow’s R-rated Joker grossed $13.3 million at the Thursday box office, breaking the record for an October preview set by Sony’s Venom last year.

Joker also beat the Thursday previews of such R-rated films as Deadpool ($12.7M), It Chapter Two ($10.5M), its director Todd Phillips’ Hangover 2 ($10.4 million) and Logan ($9.5M). The record is owned by Deadpool 2, which grossed $18.6 million in May 2018.

PREVIOUS EXCLUSIVE, early Friday AM update after 7:20 PM Thursday post, with exit polls: Warner Bros/Village Roadshow’s R-rated Joker is headed toward an October Thursday night preview record of $10M-$12M, which would upset the $10M made by Venom a year ago. Difference here is that Joker began showtimes at 4 PM, while Venom started at 5 PM at 3,543 locations. As we always asterisk, these forecasts do not come from Warner Bros but rather Deadline sources.

Booked at 4,374 theaters on Friday, Joker is the widest release ever for the month of October as well, ahead of Venom‘s 4,250.

Our Nancy Tartaglione reported yesterday that four offshore territories, including Korea, have already banked $5.4M for Joker.

Last night we heard from industry insiders that there aren’t any security threats at theaters for Joker. RelishMix indicates that social media chatter is leaning positive, ranking a high of 7 out of their 10 scale “thanks to fans of the character and a wider audience interest based on the trailers and news surrounding the film.”

“For those who are excited to see Joker in theaters, several elements pop to the top of the list. Joaquin Phoenix’s performance is certainly at the center of convo, with references to his previous movies, victories at film fests this fall, not to mention the goosebumps-inducing trailers,” RelishMix said. “Other positive sentiment comes from the genuine look at mental illness with a traditionally villainous character as its center. The movie looks and feels less like a superhero movie to some and more like an awards-season offering unlike anything they’ve seen before.  But, for traditional comic-book/superhero genre fans, this looks like Logan, Deadpool and other avant-garde takes on their favorite characters and themes. These fans like the Marvel-vs.-DC discussion, as well as the trading of ideas related to how this genre continues to evolve.”

Should Joker miss our sources’ Thursday forecasts and file in the high single digits, like $7M-$9M, it’s still great and in line with the R-rated previews of last year’s Halloween ($7.7M, third-best preview for the month off 7PM shows) and the 2011 $8M midnight shows from Paranormal Activity 3. Joker’s Thursday night could also potentially best the $10.5M that New Line/Warner Bros.’ It Chapter Two posted last month, which turned into a $91M opening (second-best for September and a horror pic). Thursday night repped 28% of It Chapter Two‘s $37M opening day, while Venom‘s Thursday repped 31% of its $32.5M first-day gross.

‘Joker’ Threat Concerns Have NYPD Taking Undercover Precautions For Opening Weekend

Thursday night is fanboy night, which means any moviegoer who is going to give the Todd Phillips movie an excellent grade will come out. PostTrak exits show 4 stars out of 5, with an 84% positive and 62% definite recommend which is very good. The under 25 set enjoy Joker better than the over 25 set, 95% to 79% in grade, yet it’s the latter who were the majority with a 67% turnout. Demo breakdown from top to bottom included M25+ (47%), F25+ (21%), M25- (21%), and F25- (11%). Hopefully more of the under 25ers spread the word and show up. Out of the four, men under 25 loved it the most at 98% followed by females under 25 at 89%. Diversity breakdown at this point in time is Caucasians 48% (85% grade), Hispanic 21% (92% grade), African American 16% (75% grade) and Asian 12% (83% grade).

Critics’ response to Joker has ebbed in the wake of its Venice and Toronto film festival premieres, going from 78% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes in early September to 69% Certified Fresh on the aggregator (wow, didn’t know a grade so low could be certified fresh). Still, that shouldn’t slow Joker‘s momentum. Venom was slammed by critics at 29% Rotten, with CinemaScore audiences settling on a B+ and that movie, which was mired in behind-the-scenes fighting, blew away its $60M forecast and opened to an October record of $80.2M. The fact that Venom was spun off the Spider-Man movies was good enough reason for audiences to go to the theater, and that same comic-book halo effect is looking to work in Joker‘s favor for an $80M+ opening despite the fact that this movie is a very serious, dark piece of art about a villain’s twisted mind. Joker is so serious, and there’s nothing ha-ha about it.

Fandango’s advance ticket sales further underscored what rival Atom Tickets was seeing in regards to everyone’s want-to-see of this Batman foe origin tale. For the Comcast-owned Fandango, Joker broke its October presales record, besting the ticket sales of Venom and Halloween. Joker also is outselling Shazam, Aquaman and Wonder Woman at the same point in the Fandango sales cycle, which is quite impressive as they were PG-13 movies. In Fandango’s recent survey from 1,000 respondents, 93% couldn’t wait to see Phoenix in the title role; 86% were looking forward to an R-rated, grittier DC movie; and 83% were excited to see more DC origin stories.

It: Chapter Two

Elsewhere at the Thursday box office, Focus Features’ Downton Abbey led all films yesterday with an estimated $1.6M, -9% from Wednesday and a running two week cume of $65.6M. STX’s Hustlers was second with $852K, -12%, for a three-week total of $85M. DreamWorks Animation/Pearl Studio’s Abominable grossed an estimated $763K, -13%, for a full week’s take of $25.8M. Fox/Disney’s Ad Astra saw an estimated $619K, -26% from yesterday, for a two-week take of $39M. New Line/Warner Bro.’ It Chapter Two saw a$529K, -20%, for a four-week total of $196.9M. The Andy Muschietti-directed second-half adaptation of the classic Stephen King novel will click past $200M this weekend.

We’ll have more updates for you as they come.

‘Joker’ Director Todd Phillips Taken Aback By Violence Rap: “Isn’t It A Good Thing To Take Away The Cartoon Element?”

READ  Comscore Film SVPs Steve Buck & Jim Zak Exit Box Office Data Corp
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Warner Bros. Laughing All The Way To The Bank With ‘Joker’: $94M Debut Reps Records For October, Todd Phillips, Joaquin Phoenix & Robert De Niro

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