Box Office: ‘Joker’ Becomes The Most Profitable Comic Book Movie Ever

'Joker'

'Joker'

Warner Bros.

With $304.2 million in North America after five weeks in theaters, Joker’s new global cume is around $953 million. Presuming its 32% domestic/68% overseas split holds, then it will have a new global cume of around $957 million by tonight. That will be 15.3x its $62.5 million production budget, which will make the Todd Phillips-directed and Joaquin Phoenix-starring drama more profitable, in terms of budget versus global gross, than Jim Carrey’s The Mask ($351 million on a $23 million budget in 1994). The most profitable “big” comic book movies are Venom ($854 million on a $90 million budget), Batman ($411 million/$35 million), Deadpool ($783 million/$58 million), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ($200 million/$13.5 million), The Mask ($351 million/$23 million) and now Joker ($956 million/$62.5 million).

That means DC Films and Warner Bros.’ Joker is the most profitable comic book movie of all time. In a skewed way, Joker represents every studio’s dream, in that it’s a mid-budget, 2-D title that’s pulling top-tier blockbuster business without relying on China. That it happens to be an R-rated psychological drama is a bonus of sorts, as it’s the third-cheapest $900 million grosser of all time after Bohemian Rhapsody ($905 million on a $52 million budget) and The Lion King ($968 million on a $55 million budget in 1994). When it tops $1 billion worldwide in the next week or so, it’ll be the cheapest movie to do so, with a budget just under the $63 million spent by Jurassic Park back in 1993.  

Up until last December, we hadn’t seen a $1 billion grosser not from Disney or Universal since Paramount’s Transformers: Age of Extinction in 2014. We’ve had two newbies in the last year, both comic book movies with huge boosts in China. But unlike Warner Bros.’ Aquaman ($1.148 billion worldwide with $298 million in China) and Spider-Man: Far from Home ($1.131 billion with $199 million in China), Joker will earn its $1 billion-plus gross without a 3-D boost and without China. When it passes The Dark Knight ($1.004 billion worldwide in 2008), it’ll be the biggest-grossing movie ever to not play in China). Yes, that’s assuming it doesn’t eventually get a Chinese play date. But without China, it should still flirt with a global cume over/under Aladdin ($1.0506 billion).

It’ll have around $312 million domestic by the end of Sunday night, with a domestic cume still likely to end up just over/under Guardians of the Galaxy ($333 million in 2014), Spider-Man: Homecoming ($334 million in 2017), Aquaman ($335 million in 2018) and Spider-Man 3 ($336 million in 2007). It’ll outgross Suicide Squad ($325 million in 2016) and sell more tickets than Man of Steel ($291 million in 2013/$322 million adjusted-for-inflation) by the end. If it passes Aquaman, Joker will be DC Comics’ fourth-biggest domestic grosser (behind Wonder Woman, The Dark Knight Rises and The Dark Knight) and (presuming a global total between $1.004 billion and $1.081 billion) their third-biggest global cume behind The Dark Knight Rises ($1.081 billion in 2012) and Aquaman.

It’s possible that continued Oscar season legs could push its global total past Toy Story 4 ($1.072 billion), but that’s a big “if.” The film will surely be Warner Bros.’ big Oscar flick. On one hand, its success, as a comic book movie about a tormented white dude who is “victimized by society” to the point of villainy may rub folks the wrong way. On the other hand, it’s a monumental success despite being an old school movie. For that matter, its over/under $500 million in profits make it a distinctly old-fashioned tentpole, providing Warner Bros. financial cover for the deluge of underperforming studio programmers (Blinded by the Light, The Kitchen, The Sun is Also A Star, The Goldfinch, Motherless Brooklyn, possibly The Good Liar and Just Mercy).

It’s also almost certain to be the only Oscar season release to qualify as a genuine blockbuster, unless (offhand) 1917, Ford v Ferrari, Little Women or A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood pulls a miracle. It could end up a major contender (think Bohemian Rhapsody), or it could just end up with a single nod for Joaquin Phoenix. I imagine Warner Media will take the $1 billion global gross over the Oscar glory. It’s the seventh-biggest global grosser of the year, sitting behind six movies that are all Disney and/or Marvel (Sony’s Spider-Man: Far from Home) releases. Universal’s Hobbs & Shaw ($758 million worldwide) and (presumably) Sony’s Jumanji: The Next Level will battle it out for the title of the year’s biggest non-Disney/non-comic book grosser.

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With $304.2 million in North America after five weeks in theaters, Joker’s new global cume is around $953 million. Presuming its 32% domestic/68% overseas split holds, then it will have a new global cume of around $957 million by tonight. That will be 15.3x its $62.5 million production budget, which will make the Todd Phillips-directed and Joaquin Phoenix-starring drama more profitable, in terms of budget versus global gross, than Jim Carrey’s The Mask ($351 million on a $23 million budget in 1994). The most profitable “big” comic book movies are Venom ($854 million on a $90 million budget), Batman ($411 million/$35 million), Deadpool ($783 million/$58 million), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ($200 million/$13.5 million), The Mask ($351 million/$23 million) and now Joker ($956 million/$62.5 million).

That means DC Films and Warner Bros.’ Joker is the most profitable comic book movie of all time. In a skewed way, Joker represents every studio’s dream, in that it’s a mid-budget, 2-D title that’s pulling top-tier blockbuster business without relying on China. That it happens to be an R-rated psychological drama is a bonus of sorts, as it’s the third-cheapest $900 million grosser of all time after Bohemian Rhapsody ($905 million on a $52 million budget) and The Lion King ($968 million on a $55 million budget in 1994). When it tops $1 billion worldwide in the next week or so, it’ll be the cheapest movie to do so, with a budget just under the $63 million spent by Jurassic Park back in 1993.  

Up until last December, we hadn’t seen a $1 billion grosser not from Disney or Universal since Paramount’s Transformers: Age of Extinction in 2014. We’ve had two newbies in the last year, both comic book movies with huge boosts in China. But unlike Warner Bros.’ Aquaman ($1.148 billion worldwide with $298 million in China) and Spider-Man: Far from Home ($1.131 billion with $199 million in China), Joker will earn its $1 billion-plus gross without a 3-D boost and without China. When it passes The Dark Knight ($1.004 billion worldwide in 2008), it’ll be the biggest-grossing movie ever to not play in China). Yes, that’s assuming it doesn’t eventually get a Chinese play date. But without China, it should still flirt with a global cume over/under Aladdin ($1.0506 billion).

It’ll have around $312 million domestic by the end of Sunday night, with a domestic cume still likely to end up just over/under Guardians of the Galaxy ($333 million in 2014), Spider-Man: Homecoming ($334 million in 2017), Aquaman ($335 million in 2018) and Spider-Man 3 ($336 million in 2007). It’ll outgross Suicide Squad ($325 million in 2016) and sell more tickets than Man of Steel ($291 million in 2013/$322 million adjusted-for-inflation) by the end. If it passes Aquaman, Joker will be DC Comics’ fourth-biggest domestic grosser (behind Wonder Woman, The Dark Knight Rises and The Dark Knight) and (presuming a global total between $1.004 billion and $1.081 billion) their third-biggest global cume behind The Dark Knight Rises ($1.081 billion in 2012) and Aquaman.

It’s possible that continued Oscar season legs could push its global total past Toy Story 4 ($1.072 billion), but that’s a big “if.” The film will surely be Warner Bros.’ big Oscar flick. On one hand, its success, as a comic book movie about a tormented white dude who is “victimized by society” to the point of villainy may rub folks the wrong way. On the other hand, it’s a monumental success despite being an old school movie. For that matter, its over/under $500 million in profits make it a distinctly old-fashioned tentpole, providing Warner Bros. financial cover for the deluge of underperforming studio programmers (Blinded by the Light, The Kitchen, The Sun is Also A Star, The Goldfinch, Motherless Brooklyn, possibly The Good Liar and Just Mercy).

It’s also almost certain to be the only Oscar season release to qualify as a genuine blockbuster, unless (offhand) 1917, Ford v Ferrari, Little Women or A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood pulls a miracle. It could end up a major contender (think Bohemian Rhapsody), or it could just end up with a single nod for Joaquin Phoenix. I imagine Warner Media will take the $1 billion global gross over the Oscar glory. It’s the seventh-biggest global grosser of the year, sitting behind six movies that are all Disney and/or Marvel (Sony’s Spider-Man: Far from Home) releases. Universal’s Hobbs & Shaw ($758 million worldwide) and (presumably) Sony’s Jumanji: The Next Level will battle it out for the title of the year’s biggest non-Disney/non-comic book grosser.

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I've studied the film industry, both academically and informally, and with an emphasis in box office analysis, for nearly 30 years. I have extensively written about all

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