Joker earned another $9.72 million on Monday, a drop of 60% from its $24.375 million Sunday gross. That is just barely the biggest Monday ever in October, just above the $9.4 million gross of Venom on this frame last year. That Tom Hardy superhero flick dropped just 55% from its $21.38 million Sunday gross. Why the big difference? Well, Columbus Day fell on October 8 last year, which was Venom’s first Monday. Joker did not have that advantage, as Columbus Day is Monday the 14th this time around. Hugh Jackman’s Logan opened with $88 million over its debut frame in March of 2017, dropping 70% from its first Sunday ($24.1 million) to its first Monday ($7.2 million).
Joker has now earned $105.922 million in four days of domestic play. Warner Bros.’ comic book origin story earned $96.2 million domestic and $248.4 million worldwide over its global launch, earning the fourth-biggest R-rated opening (behind It, Deadpool 2 and Deadpool) and selling more tickets than even Hannibal and 300 in their respective opening Fri-Sun frames. Presuming that domestic/overseas split holds, the film has now earned around $273 million worldwide, putting it on path to pass $300 million today or early tomorrow. If it legs like Venom between now and Thursday, it’ll end the week with $128 million domestic. If it legs like Halloween or Logan, it’ll have between $132 million and $136 million by Thursday night.
If that split holds, Todd Phillips’ Joker will be over $351 million worldwide by Thursday night. Of note, Venom eventually recovered and had a 2.65x multiplier, better than (for example) Logan, Deadpool 2, Suicide Squad and Justice League. But even a frontloaded run like Halloween (2.09 x $76 million) gets Joker to $200 million domestic. For what it’s worth, the Joaquin Phoenix-starring awards contender needs a multiplier of at least 2.39x to get to $230 million, which will put it safely over the unadjusted likes of Logan, Venom, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Justice League and Fate of the Furious. It only cost $60 million, so it’ll still have earned nearly 6x its budget heading into weekend two.
If it can keep its drop 55% or better (slight better than the 56% drops for Venom and Logan), it’ll earn slightly more in its second weekend than did Gravity ($43.18 million in 2013, sans inflation) for the biggest non-opening weekend ever for October. Heading into last weekend, conventional wisdom suggested a huge opening and a big drop due to it not being a conventional comic book flick. But the film earned a B+ from Cinemascore and had strong legs all weekend. It earned $39.35 million on Friday, counting the $13.3 million Thursday preview gross and then earned another $32.476 million on Saturday. That means it earned more on Saturday than it did on its “pure” Friday.
Its $24.375 million Sunday gross (-25% from Saturday) was almost tied with that $26.05 million “pure Friday” figure. There will be some folks who expected Venom and will be frustrated at getting King of Comedy. There will also be many general moviegoers who don’t usually expose themselves to this kind of grimdark character study and fight it somewhat unique and pleasurable. For them, it’ll be/could be a breath of cinematic fresh air alongside the conventional tentpole fare. Yes, film nerds and critics may find much of Joker to be old hat. However, to those less inclined to step outside the multiplex comfort zone, well, remember how Chinese moviegoers laughed at us over Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon?
There is a presumption, not entirely unfounded, that audiences don’t like to be challenged at the multiplex. I would argue that it’s more about getting them to take a complete leap of faith when choosing a theatrical outing. It’s not that audiences can’t handle or automatically don’t like movies like A Simple Favor or Widows, but rather that they now require, exceptions aside, something familiar to latch onto before taking the plunge. In the olden days, it was movie stars, which is why original films and/or adapted high concepts could flourish in the multiplex. Today it is about branded characters. But once you have their interest via the IP, like Joker, they don’t mind something a little different.
We’ve been having this conversation for at least as long as I’ve been writing. Every time Pixar makes a more unconventional flick, the pundits wonder if audiences will embrace the comparatively unusual. But Ratatouille ($620 million), Wall-E ($533 million), Up ($735 million), Inside Out ($853 million) and Coco ($807 million) were all big hits, while the comparatively safe The Good Dinosaur and Cars 3 ($383 million) bombed. Too many pundits thought Guardians of the Galaxy would be the first financial whiff of the post-Avengers MCU era, only for the James Gunn sci-fi epic to break out ($773 million in 2014) for all the reasons (unfamiliarity with the characters, a bawdy sense of humor, etc.) analysts proclaimed its doom.
Heck, even Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ($873 million), as controversial as it was, earned a lot more than Justice League ($659 million). Different doesn’t always sell, especially when you’re not encased within the protection of an IP or a brand. But if you’re using the brand as your hook, and folks actually like that brand enough to show up, you’re more likely to score giving them something different (Deadpool or Logan) than the same old/same old (X-Men: Apocalypse or Dark Phoenix). It’s the lesson of The LEGO Movie ($469 million in 2014), which used the protection of its popular (but previously unexploited) brand to tell a challenging and thoughtful story about telling challenging and thoughtful stories.
Sometimes it’s just a matter of using the protection of your brand to expand the notion of who can be the hero, as we saw with Disney’s Star Wars sequels (which put women and minorities in leading heroic roles to make a point about diverse casting in preordained blockbuster franchises), Warner Bros.’ Wonder Woman (which was the first mega-budget female-led comic book superhero movie with a female director) and Sony’s Oscar-winning Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (which told the story of Miles Morales). If anything, giving folks who don’t usually get to be the hero a chance to be the hero makes potentially run-of-the-mill superhero movies like Captain Marvel and Black Panther into something unique and/or special.
This “I can be the special” hook doesn’t apply to Joker, although Todd Phillips makes sure his “white clown’s burden” passion play with sympathetic (and/or equally frustrated) people of color to implicitly assure folks that Arthur Fleck’s anger isn’t related to race. That being said, it is a prime example of the right way to “copy” a previous smash hit. In that sense, it is as different from as Venom was to Logan as was to Deadpool as Hunger Games was different from Twilight was different from Harry Potter. If it legs out, and it may not, it’ll be because audiences actually appreciate something a little different (or being challenged) as long as it’s encased in the familiar.