Warner Bros’ Joker is on pace to be a more profitable comic book outing than Avengers: Infinity War. Since its release earlier this month, the R-rated film has been racking up the box office numbers, becoming one of the most successful R-rated movies of all-time; it could, quite possibly, eclipse all other R-rated movies.
It goes without saying that Joker isn’t one's typical comic book movie (if it is at all). As a character piece, it has more in common with films like Taxi Driver, The King of Comedy and Dog Day Afternoon than it does big-budget blockbusters like Avengers or Justice League. While other R-rated comic book movies like Logan and Deadpool (which Joker is on track to beat) have done well at the box office, neither of those films featured a protagonist quite as disturbed as Arthur Fleck. Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker is one drenched in mental illness and despair; the film’s gritty realism earned itself an eight-minute standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival and it hasn’t stopped gaining traction ever since.
Joker made a record-breaking (for October) $96 million over its opening weekend. Audiences’ fascination with the Todd Phillips-directed Joker has not only led to Oscar buzz for Phoenix, but an astounding amount of commercial success for its filmmakers. According to Deadline, Joker could make at least $464 million after global theatrical, TV and home entertainment windows (even more if it exceeds $900 million at the worldwide box office). To put this into context, Avengers: Infinity War made half a billion dollars last year in black ink, however, that film cost hundreds of millions to make. Joker had a budget of no more than 70 million.
At this point, there seems to be little standing in Joker’s way. In order to become the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time, Joker needs to surpass another big-budget film, Deadpool 2, which had a global gross of $783 million. Joker is already at $737.5 million. As it continues to stomp on ticket sales for expensive blockbusters like Gemini Man and Zombieland: Double Tap (which it beat last week), Joker seems poised to make history.
Joker, being a restraint character study, didn’t need to indulge in special effects or lavish set pieces and will profit all the same. Its success, which many find surprising, seems to debunk Hollywood’s big-budget philosophy that one has to spend money to make money. Its mature themes and explorative nature prove that audiences just like a good story, regardless of the shape or size. Unconcerned with catering too heavily to the superhero genre, or appealing to a wide demographic, Joker may change the way studios approach comic book films.
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