Joker, one of the most talked-about and controversial films of the year, has proved a hit with movie-goers, despite fears of violence at cinemas and some fans walking out saying it was too disturbing.
The film brought in an estimated $93.5 million in North America this weekend. That sees it overtake the record for an October film release held by Sony Pictures’ Venom which made $80 million at last year’s opening.
Warner Bros has been forced to defend the film about Batman’s nemesis because of its depiction of violence and concern that it would provoke copycat incidents.
Starring Joaquin Phoenix as troubled Arthur Fleck who turns into a killer, it is the random violence which has raised concern. The FBI and Department of Homeland Security warned they had received a number of threats to moviegoers, some calling for mass shootings at showings of the film.
One California theatre cancelled two screenings on Thursday night after receiving a threat, police said. In New York City, police responded after an audience member complained about a man clapping loudly every time the Joker killed someone.
One filmgoer wrote on Twitter: “By unanimous decision, the four of us walked out of the Joker movie. I haven’t walked out of a movie in years… I have never walked out of a theater more uncomfortable than I am right now walking out of Joker…”
Commenting on the attendance figures, Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore, told CNN that the backlash might even have encouraged some to attend. “It became a cultural phenomenon. All the talk around the film made it a must see event,” he said.
The movie is also generating high ticket sales overseas, earning $32.7m from 73 countries, bringing its international total up to $57.2m. Top Friday openers included the UK ($4.7m), Mexico ($4.2m), Japan ($1.9m) and Spain ($1.4m).
The film won the Venice Film Festival’s top prize and critics praised Phoenix’s performance and he is now being considered an Oscar contender.