“Joker,” the controversial Warner Bros. film about the deranged DC Comics villain, set a record for a film opening in October, despite public criticism about violence that echoes recent mass shootings.
The film, starring Joaquin Phoenix as Batman’s notorious nemesis, generated $93.5 million this weekend in North American theaters, researcher Comscore Inc. estimated Sunday. That beat the $80.3 million mark set last year by Sony Pictures’ “Venom.” Analysts expected “Joker” to bring in $85 million to $90 million, while the studio was predicting about $80 million.
In the movie, director Todd Phillips created a character study of the DC Comics super-criminal known as the Joker, tracing his evolution from a lonely man who lives with his mother and works as a clown, to an epic villain.
Warner Bros. spent about $55 million making “Joker,” or about quarter of the typical superhero-film budget – which means it can make money even if the picture fails to produce superhero-like ticket sales.
Phillips’s dark vision led to concerns the picture might spark violence. Families of victims of a 2012 mass shooting at an Aurora, Colorado, theater wrote the studio expressing concern. In that incident, a man opened fire during a screening of “The Dark Knight Rises,” a Warner Bros. film about Batman.
The Century Theater located at the Bella Terra shopping center in Huntington Beach, California, canceled two screenings of the movie earlier this week after the local police received information about “a possible threat.” The Huntington Beach Police Department will provide patrols at the venue for the rest of this weekend.
The studio, part of AT&T Inc., said that the movie isn’t intended “to hold this character up as a hero.” The company said it has a long history of donating to victims of violence and noted its parent in recent weeks has called on policymakers to address the “epidemic” of gun violence.