It’s official: ‘Joker’ is the first $1 billion R-rated movie

Published: Nov 19, 2019 9:27 a.m. ET

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‘Joker’ is the first R-rated movie to hit $1 billion in global box office.
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By

Senior Editor

TerrenceHoran

“Joker” wasn’t supposed to be a blockbuster — even the executives at its own studio reportedly weren’t betting on a big win. Yet the unique, darkly violent movie is killing it a the box office.

While the DC Comics film scored plenty of rave reviews ahead of its Oct. 4 release, its plot — a troubled comedian descends into murderous villainy and incites an uprising among Gotham’s impoverished masses — drummed up fears of movie-theater violence. Industry watchers and critics were unsure how the overt political themes (despite its director’s claim that it’s not a political film) would go over, especially overseas.

“Joker” became the top R-rated movie of all time by global box-office revenue weeks ago, topping 2018’s “Deadpool 2,” and is now the first R-rated film to pass $1 billion in box office, according to Box Office Mojo.

It also holds the record for biggest fall opening weekend, winning out over the Marvel movie “Venom,” released in the same weekend last year.

Its performance internationally has been strong: 68% of its global take has come from outside the U.S.

It currently sits at No. 7 on the list of top box-office hauls for 2019, far behind the $2.8 billion for “Avengers: Endgame,” which is also the top-grossing film of all time. And “Joker” is getting very close to coming even with “Aladdin,” currently at No. 6 among 2019 films, with a global take of $1,050,693,953.

What “Joker” has accomplished is remarkable especially considering it hasn’t been released in China, usually a big factor in international box office.

Another stunning figure for “Joker” is it was made on a budget of just $55 million, according to Box Office Mojo.

Compare that outlay to the estimated budgets of some of its superhero brethren:

“Venom”: $100,000,000

“Deadpool 2”: $110,000,000

“The Dark Knight”: $185,000,000

“The Dark Knight Rises”: $250,000,000

“Avengers: Infinity War”: $321,000,000

“Avengers: Endgame”: $356,000,000

With its comparatively pint-size budget, “Joker” stands to earn a hefty profit — Deadline estimated at least $500 million if the movie surpassed $900 million in global box office, which it has. A half-billion in profit, incidentally, is reportedly what Disney DIS, -0.34%   and Marvel Studios got out of “Avengers: Infinity War.”

All of this record-setting would seem to be very good news for the studio behind the film, Warner Bros., which is a unit of AT&T T, -0.23% .

However The Wall Street Journal has reported that Warner Bros. enlisted two other studios as financial partners to help share the film’s risk. According to the Journal, that means those partners stand to take home between 40% to 50% of the profits.

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