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Todd Phillips’ Joker looks to be headed for a record-breaking opening weekend at the box office. It’s a huge win for the film, but although opening weekend box office gives us an idea of how many people were interested and wanted to see Joker, it doesn’t really tell us what they thought of the movie once they saw it. That’s where CinemaScore comes in. And following its opening Friday night, Joker has kind of a surprising CinemaScore from polled moviegoers.
CinemaScore polls moviegoers directly at theaters throughout North America on opening night to gauge their opinions of a film. This provides a more scientific, although not perfect, measurement of audience sentiment than something like user submitted scores on Rotten Tomatoes or IMDb. The CinemaScore for Joker has been revealed and the Joaquin Phoenix film has earned a B+ from opening night audiences.
The CinemaScore range is from A+ to F so a B+ is a passing grade and a pretty decent score, indicating that opening night audiences generally liked the film. Other recent films that have earned a B+ are Good Boys, IT Chapter Two and Ready or Not. It’s a better score than Ad Astra and Hustlers but lower than Abominable and Hobbs & Shaw. But what makes Joker’s CinemaScore surprising is that a B+ seems to be something of a middle of the road score for such a polarizing film.
Opening night audiences, like those polled by CinemaScore, tend to be more enthusiastic than those who see a movie later, but a B+ is not perfect and is neither the gushing praise of an A+ like Avengers: Endgame received, nor the horrible D+ of something like Serenity. It’s pretty good, but not incredible. What’s funny about that is that you might think that it would fall on either end of the spectrum, not in the middle, given the opinions expressed prior to its release.
Since Joker premiered at the Venice Film Festival, critics have both praised and condemned it, with some reviews giving the film perfect scores and others calling it trash. Sure, not all reviews were of the hot take variety that everyone is so fond of giving, some were right in the middle, but the conversation was one that didn’t allow for nuance, this film was either a masterpiece or irresponsible garbage.
The nature of the internet lends itself to that kind of intensity of opinion but audiences are not critics. That has been made evident with the Audience Score on Rotten Tomatoes that is much higher for Joker than the critical Tomatometer score. I suppose a B+ could be considered an average of very high and lower audience grades, but it just seems funny for a movie that has stoked such passionate opinions prior to its release to wind up with a CinemaScore that looks ‘just okay.’
Perhaps opening night audiences weren’t as caught up in the controversy nor interested in picking a side, they simply saw the movie and generally liked it. There are a lot of ways to measure what general audiences think of a movie and none of them are perfect but the CinemaScore gives us our best idea yet of how Joker is being received. As the weekend and weeks ahead go on and we see word of mouth and box office returns, we’ll get an even better sense of how people feel about Joker.