Get ready to rethink what’s possible in comic book movies. Again. In a little over a month, Warner Bros. releases the latest DC Comics adaptation Joker — an origin story of Batman’s arch-nemesis — and if you thought The Dark Knight and Logan pushed the boundaries of adult storytelling and Oscar quality for these types of films, Joker is about to up the ante.
First, let’s address the financial outlook. Budgeted at $55 million and with a relatively modest marketing budget, Joker only needs roughly $190+/- million in worldwide receipts to reach black ink. And it won’t have any trouble racing far past that figure.
This is a film about one of our most popular pop culture villains, with a high-profile lead performer and trailers eliciting tremendous buzz. Early talk of Joaquin Phoenix as a potential Best Actor contender at the Oscars is sure to increase Joker’s must-see status. And the October 4th release date means there are no notable wide releases opening against it, nor any holdovers that will still be recent enough to act as contenders for the same target audiences to any significant degree.
A week later Gemini Man opens, and the week after that brings Maleficent: Mistress of Evil and Zombieland 2: Double Tap, meaning Joker has the first full week to itself and then only one movie competing for some of the same audience on weekend #2. Two weeks is plenty of time to rack up the box office it needs to be well into the profit zone and ride a wave of likely strong reviews and positive audience word-of-mouth — especially among viewers who made superhero movies like The Dark Knight and Logan blockbuster hits — to box office gold.
Adult fare, even R-rated, can score big theatrical results in October, especially if they have room to get their legs under them and no major competition when they open.
Last year’s Venom (itself a more violent type of superhero movie) holds the record for biggest October bow with $80 million. Halloween (an R-rated slasher film) took $76 million last year for second place on the month’s all-time charts, followed by 2013’s Gravity with $55.7 million and the R-rated The Martian from 2015 with $54 million. Of those, Halloween had the lowest final multiplier, at 2.09x. Venom enjoyed a nice 2.6x final multiplier, while the other two scored massive 4+x final multipliers.