Nobody expected Joker to do so well at the box office. Even the biggest fans wondered why Warner Bros and DC decided to do this. At the time of its announcement, the public preferred the Marvel Cinematic Universe over the DC Extended Universe. Why would they choose to do a standalone origin story?
It didn’t make sense back then — but look at the results now. Todd Phillips cracked the code. Somehow, he managed to create a Joker that would make the late Heath Ledger proud. With a budget of at least $55 million, Joker is now on its way to a billion dollars. How did this happen?
The Double-Edged Sword of Media Panic
There’s high political tension in the US today. Protests happen constantly — and people dread when and where the next mass shooting will happen. Thus, some are concerned about the depiction of violence on TV and film. What if the Joker inspires people to commit horrible crimes?
And the worries aren’t completely senseless. People still remember the Aurora mass shooting in 2012. It happened during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises. The movie didn’t motivate the killer — but the connection alone frightens some people. It didn’t help that the Joker was a murderous supervillain.
With all the fears surrounding Joker, media outlets began writing about it. They kept reporting about how insane and influential the Joker was. Many people on social media even began calling for the banning of Joker. But in their bid to discourage people from watching, the media gave free publicity.
Critical Recognition and Word of Mouth
It didn’t take long before the movie proved its value. Joker premiered at the Venice International Film Festival — and bagged the biggest prize. As the recipient of the Golden Lion, Todd Phillips’ film now had more attention. This time, both DC fans and movie critics wanted to know what Joker was all about.
At this point, the media was still relentless in warning the public about Joker. It was impossible to browse Twitter and Facebook without seeing the posts. Then Joker opened in the US. It had a record-breaking first week — earning $96.2 million. This was nearly double the industry expectations.
Did anyone incite violence due to Joker? No. But this didn’t stop the media. They kept writing about it as if they were hoping for something to justify all the hysteria they created. In contrast, many people who saw Joker were raving about it. The movie was trending on Twitter and the hype led to more ticket sales.
Long Legs and No Real Competition
Joker didn’t suffer a steep decline at the box office in its second week. It stayed at the No. 1 spot with $55.9 million. The Maleficent sequel dethroned it in its third week, but Joker had legs. It raked nearly $30 million and $20 million in the third and fourth weeks, respectively. Plus, it was doing well overseas.
There was no actual competition. Zombieland 2, Addams Family, Gemini Man, and Downton Abbey differed in genres and target markets. Now, Joker is less than $70 million away from being a billion-dollar hit. That’s stellar, especially since it didn’t benefit from premium 3D screenings and the Chinese market.