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Why Joker Likely Won't Hit $1 Billion (Despite Breaking Box Office Records)

Joker has broken several box office records during its run so far, but it probably isn't going to hit $1 billion worldwide. This past decade, the $1 billion box office club has become far less exclusive than it once was. Out of the 43 movies all-time to hit that mark, a whopping 36 of them have come out in theaters since 2010. Things have now gotten to the point where if a highly-anticipated tentpole doesn't make $1 billion, it's considered a disappointment. Six films (including five from Disney alone) earned $1 billion in 2019, and there should be a couple more that reach the plateau before the end of the year.

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As of this writing, Joker has earned $548.2 million globally after being in theaters for just under two weeks. It rewrote the box office history book in its first three days, surpassing even the rosiest expectations going into its debut. Considering all the money it's made already, there are probably some people who think Joker has a shot of topping $1 billion by the time it bows out of theaters. But we think it's going to fall a little short of that milestone.

Related: Joker Box Office Success Shows Marvel Isn't the Only Way

The $1 billion films come in various forms, ranging from highly-anticipated franchise sequels (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Avengers: Endgame), sweeping romantic epics (Titanic), animated films (Frozen), and everything in between. One thing all 43 titles have in common, however, is the fact none of them are rated R. The highest-grossing R-rated film all-time worldwide is last summer's Deadpool 2, which earned $785 million during its time in theaters. That's roughly $215 million away from reaching $1 billion, which is a considerable margin to make up. If Joker is to gross over $1 billion, it will need to have a truly unprecedented performance over the next few weeks. Right now, Joker needs to come up with approximately $452 million more. As successful as the film's been to date, that seems like a tall order.

It's no coincidence none of the $1 billion films are rated R. While there have been plenty of R-rated hits throughout history (again, look no further than Deadpool, among others), it's obviously a more restricted classification that limits the film's potential audience. All of the $1 billion grossers are PG-13, PG, or G, which are broader in their appeal. It's easier for those movies to make $1 billion, since they're designed to be consumed by a larger demographic. There's a reason why Endgame is considered a four-quadrant blockbuster and Joker is something geared towards older moviegoers. With this in mind, it wouldn't be surprising if Frozen II and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker were the last two $1 billion earners of the year.

It goes without saying this doesn't take anything away from Joker's accomplishments. Unlike Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League, this was not made to be a $1 billion hit. Warner Bros. knew going in Joker was a different kind of beast when compared to more traditional comic book movie fare, and intentionally kept the production budget down. The studio even made a deal to split costs and profits out of concerns regarding Joker's commercial viability. Even if Joker doesn't pass Deadpool 2 (and it should get close), it will still go down as a massive box office hit - one that WB desperately needed to rebound from what's been an up and down 2019.

More: Joker is 2019's Most Disturbing Movie

Key Release Dates
  • Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020) release date: Feb 07, 2020
  • Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) release date: Jun 05, 2020
  • The Batman (2021) release date: Jun 25, 2021
  • The Suicide Squad (2021) release date: Aug 06, 2021
  • DC Super Pets (2022) release date: May 20, 2022
  • Aquaman 2 (2022) release date: Dec 16, 2022
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