Warner Bros. Laughing All The Way To The Bank With ‘Joker’: $94M Debut Reps Records For October, Todd Phillips, Joaquin Phoenix & Robert De Niro

EXCLUSIVE Thursday night: Warner Bros/Village Roadshow’s R-rated Joker is looking excellent tonight, on its way to $10M+ in previews which began at 4PM. That’s the same amount of money that Sony’s PG-13 Venom made a year ago, which set an October Thursday night record, off shows that began at 5PM in 3,543 locations. As we always asterisk, these forecasts do not come from Warner Bros, but Deadline sources.

So far we hear from industry insiders that there aren’t any security threats at theaters for Joker. RelishMix indicates that social media chatter is leaning positive, ranking a high of 7 out of their 10 scale “thanks to fans of the character and a wider audience interest based on the trailers and news surrounding the film.”

“For those who are excited to see Joker in theaters, several elements pop to the top of the list. Joaquin Phoenix’s performance is certainly at the center of convo, with references to his previous movies, victories at film fests this Fall, not to mention the goosebumps-inducing trailers. Other positive sentiment comes from the genuine look at mental illness with a traditionally villainous character as its center. The movie looks and feels less like a superhero movie to some and more like an awards season offering unlike anything they’ve seen before.  But, for traditional comic-book/superhero genre fans, this looks like Logan, Deadpool and other avant garde takes on their favorite characters and themes. These fans like the Marvel vs DC discussion, as well as the trading of ideas related to how this genre continues to evolve,” reports RelishMix tonight.

Should Joker come in in the high single digits, like $7M-$9M, it’s still great and in line with the R-rated previews of last year’s Halloween ($7.7M, third best preview for the month off 7PM shows) and the 2011 $8M midnight shows from Paranormal Activity 3. Joker’s Thursday night, should it remain in tact, would also be close to the $10.5M that New Line/Warner Bros.’ It Chapter Two posted last month, which turned into a $91M opening. Thursday night repped 28% of It Chapter Two‘s $37M opening day, while Venom‘s Thursday repped 31% of its $32.5M first day gross.

Thursday night is fanboy night, which means that any moviegoer who is going to give the Todd Phillips movie an excellent grade will come out. Critics have ebbed on Joker in the wake of its Venice and TIFF premieres last month, going from 78% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes to 69% Certified Fresh on the aggregator (wow, didn’t know a grade so low, could be certified). Still, that shouldn’t slow Joker‘s momentum. Venom was slammed by critics at 29% Rotten, with CinemaScore audiences settling on a B+ and that movie, which was mired in behind-the-scenes fighting, blew away its $60M forecast and opened to an October record of $80.2M. The fact that Venom was spun off the Spider-Man property was good enough reason for audiences to go to the theater, and that same comic-book halo effect is looking to work in Joker‘s favor for an $80M-plus opening despite the fact that this movie is a very serious, dark piece of art about a villain’s twisted mind. Joker is so serious and there’s nothing ha-ha about it. Fandango’s advance ticket sales further underscored what rival Atom Tickets was seeing in regards to everyone’s want-to-see of this Batman foe origin-tale. For the Comcast-owned Fandango, Joker broke their October presales record, besting the ticket sales of Venom and Halloween. Joker is also outselling Shazam, Aquaman and Wonder Woman at the same point  in the Fandango sales cycle. In Fandango’s recent 1,000 respondent survey, 93% couldn’t wait to see Joaquin Phoenix in the title role. 86% were looking forward to an R-rated, grittier DC movie while 83% were excited to see more DC origin stories.

We’ll have more updates for you as they come.

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