Moviegoers put on a happy face for Todd Phillips’ gritty supervillain experiment, as Joker makes waves in its opening weekend.
There are very few universal truths in this world. One is that you never rub another man’s rhubarb. The other is that a movie starring The Joker is bound to make some money. For evidence of the latter phenomenon, just check out Joker‘s box office returns, opening to $93.5 million this weekend. That’s the biggest opening weekend in history for an October release, the fourth-biggest R-rated opening in history and the biggest opening ever for director Todd Phillips. Joker also scored the biggest opening weekend of 2019 for a movie not released by Disney while after just three days of release, Joker has surpassed the lifetime domestic grosses of all but four of the movies of Martin Scorsese, the director who inspired this take on the comic book baddie.
A comic book movie making big bucks at the domestic box office is about as surprising as a Michael Bay movie being trash, but Joker differs from the norm for these movies in a number of ways. It was a mid-budget endeavor (it only cost $55 million to make) whose marketing emphasized that it was a gruesome drama, not an action movie. Also, Joaquin Phoenix hasn’t appeared in a movie that’s grossed over $30 million domestically since Walk the Line in November 2005. Such factors got canceled out by the simple fact that The Joker is an immensely popular character, and the idea of following his origins in the context of this kind of Scorsese pastiche appealed to general moviegoers. Toss in some major award season buzz and oodles of controversy about how dark the movie was and Joker became the water-cooler movie of Fall 2019.
Abominable fell 41% this frame, larger than the 37% second-weekend decline of Smallfoot, to add $12 million to a domestic haul of $37.8 million. In its third weekend of release, Downton Abbey eased 44% for a third-weekend gross of $8 million for a $73.6 million domestic haul. Could the Downton Abbey crew be headed for a domestic gross above $100 million? It’s likely if it holds on well throughout the rest of October. Meanwhile, Hustlers dropped 44% for a fourth-weekend gross of $6.3 million for a great $91.3 million domestic haul. It: Chapter Two became only the seventh title of 2019 to crack $200 million domestically thanks to it scaring up $5.2 million (a 47% drop from last weekend) for a domestic gross of $202.2 million.
Ad Astra got hit hard by the presence of Joker as it fell 54% this weekend for a third-weekend haul of $4.5 million and a domestic cume of $43.5 million. After a dynamite limited release opening weekend, Judy expanded into wide release this frame with 1,458 locations. It ended up gross another $4.4 million for a per-theater average of $3,049 and a current domestic total of $8.9 million. Judy appears to be on its way to becoming only the second limited release of 2019 to crack $20 million domestically. Rambo: Last Blood dropped 58% for a third-weekend gross of $3.5 million and a domestic gross of $39.8 million.
In ninth place, we find Indian action movie War, which took in $1.5 million from 305 locations for a per-theater average of $5,184. Official grosses haven’t been reported for it yet, but Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy also debuted this weekend with impressive early unofficial box office estimates. Currently, Good Boys is estimated to have rounded out the top ten with $900,000 (a 56% drop from last weekend) for an $82 million domestic haul. Chinese anthology feature My People, My Country opened to an outstanding $865,000 from just 70 locations for a per-theater average of $12,357.
The Peanut Butter Falcon, still playing in wide release (it’s currently showing in 623 locations), amassed another $495,251 for a domestic gross of $18.9 million. Looks like this one will narrowly crack $20 million domestically. Pain and Glory opened to $160,087 from 4 locations for a per-theater average of $40,022. That’s currently the fourth-best limited release opening weekend per-theater average of 2019 and the second-biggest limited release bow for a Sony Pictures Classics title since Irrational Man all the way back in July 2015. This is also the third-best opening weekend ever for a Pedro Almodóvar directorial effort. Clearly, this one seems poised for a strong limited release box office run over the next few months.
Faring far worse in its own limited release bow was Lucy in the Sky, which opened to just $55,000 from 37 locations for a terrible per-theater average of $1,486. That’s the worst opening weekend for a Fox Searchlight title since I Origins back in July 2014. It goes without saying that one shouldn’t expect Lucy in the Sky to make much of a theatrical expansion in the coming weeks with that kind of opening.
The top twelve movies this weekend grossed a total of $141.7 million, down 23% from the same weekend last year when Venom and A Star Is Born topped the domestic box office. This is also the fourth-biggest weekend ever in October.