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Joker just opened in theaters and while the movie has been controversial even before opening, nobody was quite sure what that meant for the movie's box office potential. It seems that a lot of people were very curious what all the hype was about, as Joker has set an October record for Thursday evening, blowing the previous record holder, Venom, out of the water.
12 months ago on this very weekend Venom set a box office record for an opening weekend in October with just over $80 million. That weekend got off to a great start thanks to a $10 million Thursday evening, that was in itself also a record for the month of October. Joker is now looking to set it's own opening weekend record, after breaking Venom's Thursday night record with a take of $13.3 million according to Box Office Mojo.
There are a few reasons why Joker may have so significantly beaten Venom's Thursday record. First, Joker was available on more screens. Joker is seeing the widest release ever for a movie in October, booked into 4,374 theaters on Friday. Beyond that, preview showings started earlier for Joker, as early as 4:00 PM in many markets, as opposed to 5:00 PM for Venom. It's possible many theaters were able to add additional screenings because of the earlier start.
However, even if Joker got an extra boost thanks to these factors, the record is still significant. The people who tend to go to the Thursday night screenings are the most enthusiastic fans, the ones who don't want to wait even a day or two to see a particular movie. It wouldn't matter how many screenings there were of a movie if nobody showed up to fill the seats, and in this case people certainly did.
A strong Thursday showing doesn't always mean the full weekend numbers will be as strong, but it is a good indicator. It's possible that some of the controversy surrounding Joker might keep people away on opening weekend, if only to wait and see how the word of mouth goes with the film.
Based on what's been seen on social media, the reaction by those that have seen it is largely as you might expect. The film is being strongly praised by most, though the film is certainly a dark and depressing affair.
At the same time, because of the way that Joker has been built up over the last few weeks, we could very well see a large influx of people checking it out this weekend in order to avoid being left out of the conversation that is sure to begin among those who have seen it. If nothing else, the film's ending is going to be something people are going to want to talk about.
We'll be keeping our eyes on these numbers. Based on the way thins have started, it certainly looks like Joker may be that rare movie that is both a box office success and also a serious awards contender.