October’s first full weekend is set to kick off in a big way with the industry and early forecasting models suggesting Warner Bros. and DC’s Joker could challenge last year’s Venom for the biggest October opening of all time. On this same weekend one year ago, the Sony / Marvel title bowed to $80.3 million.
Building on our original forecast two months ago, the Todd Phillips picture has become the “water cooler movie” of the fall season before audiences have even seen it. Tracking metrics and social media trends have consistently shifted upward, driving even more optimistic forecasts as time has progressed.
Initial critics’ reactions were highly praiseworthy, leading to increased confidence in the film’s ability to reach a blockbuster-like debut despite very challenging subject matter and an R-rating — the latter of which has proven to be less of a disadvantage in the comic book genre than once presumed thanks to breakout runs by the Deadpool films and Logan in recent years.
As the weeks have worn on, the initial gushing has evolved into a slightly more divisive reaction around the film. As of this report’s publishing, Joker boasts a respectable 75 percent score from 204 critics on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s an encouraging line overall, but general reactions tallying up as industry screenings have continued indicate this is a film that could easily divide general moviegoers. That’s heavily factored into our final forecasts and expectations for staying power in the weeks ahead.
That being said, this is still a very intriguing film to both fans and the uninitiated. Joker remains one of the most iconic villains in cinematic history (comic book genre or otherwise), and the curiosity surrounding what Joaquin Phoenix can do with the role in a character-driven, gritty, R-rated project has ignited awareness and interest beyond the die hard DC fan base.
Compounding those elements is the film’s marketing, which — at least tonally — gives an impression that this is the closest attempt at a version of the supervillain resembling the anarchically fueled, character-driven, iconic work by Heath Ledger in 2008’s The Dark Knight. Given the cultural impact of that film and Ledger’s work in it (which still reverberates throughout pop culture today), it wouldn’t be shocking to see a big debut from a film that isn’t even budgeted with the need for one.
Exhibitors are certainly bullish in their hopes for a strong weekend as they’ve booked the film, on average, for 11 percent more shows per day than Venom was booked Thursday evening through Sunday. This is something of an expectation game, but it’s an impressive stat for an R-rated film that won’t play to families or kids in the way the PG-13 Venom did leading into Columbus Day on Monday (which won’t land until after Joker‘s second frame next week).
Then again, Joker faces no other major competition this weekend. Venom opened directly against A Star Is Born and its $42.9 million debut, and both had to share premium screen allocations. Joker will have the full breadth of IMAX, PLF, and dine-in theaters as the sole opener this weekend.
Another unknown element in this weekend’s turnout will be the effect (if any) of the threat on an unspecified movie theater, made public last week by military officials based on official FBI evidence. It’s a sensitive subject for all involved, particularly given the association (though largely misconstrued) between the Joker character and the Aurora tragedy during The Dark Knight Rises‘ midnight debut seven years ago.
To say that kind of news might affect the decision of some to see the film this weekend, and thus skew box office forecasts, is to state the obvious in a near callous way. The bottom line is the response from theater owners and officials serves as a reminder that their top priority is the safety of patrons everywhere as they set aside any fear of threats by a vocal, dark web minority and engage in one of our culture’s most celebrated traditions: going to the movies.
Opening Weekend Range:
- Joker ($80 – 105 million)
Top 10 vs. Last Year
Boxoffice projects this weekend’s top ten films will decline 10 to 20 percent from the same weekend last year when Venom and A Star Is Born bowed as part of a very strong $168.98 million top ten market.
|3-Day Weekend Forecast
|Projected Domestic Total through Sunday, September 29
|% Change from Last Wknd
|It: Chapter Two
|Warner Bros. / New Line
Alex Edghill contributed to this report
Forecasts subject to change as location counts are finalized before Friday.