Joker Becomes First R-Rated Film To Hit This Major Box Office Milestone

Suzy Kerr
Read Time2 Minutes, 31 Seconds

Suzy Kerr

Nov 17, 2019 12:54 AM PST

Last month, Joker became the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time, passing last year’s Deadpool 2, which brought in $785 million, and 2003’s The Matrix Reloaded, which grossed $828 million worldwide. Now, it has become the first R-rated movie to reach the $1 billion mark (unadjusted for inflation) at the box office.
According to Entertainment Weekly, Warner Bros. has confirmed that the movie has passed the major milestone, and it happened just a little more than a month after it’s October 4th release.

This is just the latest record for the film, which was directed by Todd Phillips and stars Joaquin Phoenix in the titular role. The violent origin story of the most well-known Batman villain – who is also the superhero’s arch nemesis – had the highest-grossing October opening weekend ever with a three-day total of $93.5 million. And, in its first three weekends, it grossed a whopping $737.5 million.
Warner Bros. spent just $62.5 million to finance the film, and it is estimated that the studio spent at least another $40 million or so for global marketing and distribution fees. But, that $100 million-ish total is still just a fraction of what Marvel spends on their movies. That relatively conservative investment on Warner Bros.’ part means that Joker could possibly end up being the most profitable superhero movie in film history.
“Joker is definitely having the last laugh,” Jeff Bock, a senior media analyst with Exhibitor Relations, told Variety. “You can’t buy a comic-book adaptation for that price, yet Warner Bros. pulled it off with good old-fashioned storytelling.”
Bock went on to say that Warner Bros. kept their investment to a minimum because of the film’s violent and disturbing content, but the bottom line is that they took a risk and it paid off. They had the exact same success in 2016 with the first Deadpool, which starred Ryan Reynolds as the foul-mouthed Merc with a Mouth, when they spent just $58 million on the film, and it ended up grossing $783 million at the box office.

Because Phillips’ Joker was an intimate character study instead of a movie loaded with CGI, it helped keep the costs low. And, the universal themes the film explores helped it avoid a major drop-off at the box office after it’s opening weekend, which is something that usually happens with superhero movies.
“We’re talking about universal themes of alienation, loneliness, helplessness and anger that have truly continued to feed this box office beast,” Bock said. “Younger audiences are championing this film in much the same way the youthful demographic of the day rallied around Natural Born Killers or Clockwork Orange, or Pulp Fiction.”
He explained that each film was violent in its own way, but it also had something to say about society’s shortcomings. Bock believes that Joker and other successful violent films were able to “jack into the cinematic synapses of moviegoers,” and that made them talking points and gave the films a longer shelf life than their competitors.
Joker is currently playing in theaters nationwide.

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