‘Joker’ Will Top $900 Million As Biggest R-Rated Film In History

The plausible became possible, and then it became inevitable. Warner Bros.’ super-villain origin movie Joker climbed to $737 million worldwide this weekend after another big week at the box office, and next weekend it will pass $810+ million in global receipts. All indications are Joker won’t stop until it tops $900 million to become the biggest R-rated film in history.

As of today’s box office numbers, Joker is now officially the third-highest grossing R-rated release of all time, just ahead of The Matrix: Reloaded ($738.5 million) and behind only Deadpool ($783.6 million) and Deadpool 2 ($785 million).

For the rest of its theatrical run, Joker is pacing toward a lowest-end final tally of $875+/- million, and a highest-end total of about $945+/- million. The low-end estimate is assuming sudden large declines and a fast departure from theaters in its final weeks, while the high-end assumes continued small weekly declines even against strong box office competition in the weeks ahead.

A moderate midpoint between the two estimates is $910-915 million, which is probably where we should expect Joker to end its run, to avoid overstating things at this point. And make no mistake, if Joker was yanked from theaters today, its current running cume is already a massive blockbuster hit, so even if it for some reason wound up on the lowest end of possible outcomes – $875+/- million – that would not be a disappointment or anything to remotely regret. For it to even have had a chance at $900 million, let alone now appearing all but certain to hit that massive figure, is a success beyond anything the studio remotely dreamed was possible.

Joker’s success is Warner’s shining star of 2019, their biggest performer of the year after several would-be franchise hits fizzled out or otherwise suffered underperformances this year. Joker will now combine with Shazam! to give the studio’s DC Comics properties their fourth $1+ billion year in a row (their totals already combine for $1.1 billion to date), after Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad hauled in $1.62 billion in 2016, Wonder Woman and Justice League combined for $1.47 billion in 2017, and Aquaman took $1.14 billion by itself in 2018.

Next year, Birds of Prey and Wonder Woman 1984 give Warner’s DC films an all-women slate that should easily top a combined $1+ billion at the box office. While it’s way too early for any serious financial analysis, based purely on the prior success of the characters in those series and the reinvigorated DC performance, I tentatively suspect we’ll see a two-film cume in the $1.5+/- billion range. And of course, the following year sees The Batman and The Suicide Squad, so expect an easy $1+ billion outcome in 2021 as well.

I’ll also remind you that I heard for months that Supergirl was expected to go into production next year, in preparation for a hoped-for 2021 release. While that information is admitted several months old at this point, I’ve not yet heard solid sourced info claiming anything has changed. So for now, I assume that’s still tentatively the expectation, unless I hear things have changed – which can happen, since this is Hollywood where plans change on a dime sometimes, the AT&T acquisition of Warner means projects, plans, and expenses are getting new looks, and of course as new projects get greenlit it can affect plans for other projects.

Which is all to say Joker has lifted Warner’s spirits for 2019, and kept up the DC movies trend of delivering in excess of $1.1 billion per year in box office revenue, and I expect this means we’ll see Joaquin Phoenix’s version of the Clown Prince of Crime return to the big screen – whether that happens in a Joker sequel, or in one of the new Batman movies, remains to be seen (I personally increasingly suspect it will be the latter, if Phoenix and The Batman cowriter-director Matt Reeves get together to discuss it and come to an understanding).

I’ll have more to report about Joker, upcoming DC movies, and some word on The Batman soon, so be sure to check back.

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