Joker is studio Warner Bros.’ biggest hit of the year with a still-growing worldwide box office of $543 million. Directed by Todd Phillips and starring Joaquin Phoenix, the DC Comics-inspired drama — an origin story for the infamous Batman villain — gave Warners its biggest opening weekend for a DC movie since Wonder Woman ($103.2 million) in June 2017, taking in a record-setting $96.2 million and marking a career best for Phillips, Phoenix and co-star Robert De Niro. Its opening numbers also topped Justice League ($93.8m), Aquaman ($67.8m) and Shazam! ($53.5m). After scoring the biggest ever October opening in its Oct. 4 start, Joker won its second weekend with an estimated $55 million domestically.
These numbers top the studio’s most notable 2019 releases, including the animated The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part ($191 million), Zachary Levi-led superhero comedy Shazam! ($364 million), Michael Dougherty’s five-years-later Godzilla sequel King of the Monsters ($385 million), the first-ever live-action Pokémon film Detective Pikachu ($431 million) and clown-centric horror IT CHAPTER TWO ($445 million). Domestically, IT CHAPTER TWO is still in the lead at $207 million, just ahead of Joker’s $192+ million. Pikachu follows at $144 million, leading Shazam! ($140m), Godzilla ($110m) and Lego 2 ($105m).
“Not only did Joker over-perform in North America, but also internationally where the acclaim, buzz and controversy surrounding the film resonated strongly with moviegoers who put the film at the top of their cinematic priority list,” Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian previously told Variety of the headline-making outcry surrounding Joker pre-release. “Movies that become part of the general conversation due to their controversial nature are often those that transcend their status as a movie to become a cultural event and this is exactly what happened with Joker.”
In the wake of Joker’s critical and financial success, cinematographer Lawrence Sher said the filmmakers “never believed” the film would inspire acts of real-life violence.
“We also believed, at our heart — and I believe this personally, as somebody who is a big part of the movie but also as an audience member — I believed that audiences were gonna respond the way they did, and that once they had the chance to see the movie, sort of the field would then be leveled and back to an even playing field again,” Sher told the Go Creative Show podcast. “It wouldn’t be so heavily kind of weighted towards critics and other journalists that were, frankly, to some extent sometimes pre-judging a movie that some of them hadn’t even seen.”
Sher is now hopeful Joker will inspire Warner Bros. and its rival studios to take chances on other “risky” projects.
“One of the things I’m most happy and proud of the movie on its own — but also the fact that audiences seem to really respond to it — is it bucks the trend that people always say movies have to be purely an escape or they have to be fun and easy, or ‘don’t do this in a movie, because you’ll never get the audience,’” Sher said. “This movie challenges all of those things, and its box office result has just proved that audiences are ready and are excited by things that are different, and risky, and even at times just wholly artistic. I think this movie stands alone in a studio space, certainly, in a way that’s very exciting, and I’m super proud to have been a part of it.”