‘Joker’ Brings Box Office Success Amid Heightened Police Presence

Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal of the maniacal Joker is a runaway success, despite significant concerns about the violent nature of the film.  Opening weekend was a blockbuster for the much anticipated, but highly controversial film. In fact, the movie’s opening weekend smashed box office records and is shaping up to be one of Warner Bros.’s most successful films ever. Joker, however, is not without controversy, and concerns about violence sparked heavy security in several major metropolitan areas.  

Joker destroys box office records as police standby

A police presence could be felt around movie theaters across the country. The opening of the much-anticipated Joker drew concerns from fans, private citizens, and police departments. Afraid of a violent outburst, movie theaters were strict on the R-rating of the film and banned costumes, face paint, and props.

Police stood by waiting for a random act of violence. Thankfully, it didn’t come. The film, however, absolutely decimated box office expectations. Joker raked in $93.5 million domestically. The film also pulled in an additional $140 million from 70 overseas markets, according to The Hollywood Reporter.  Massive box office numbers are expected to continue once the film debuts in China. It does not yet have a release date in that particular market.

Even with its success at the box office, some people remain concerned about the message it is sending, and how the movie could inspire violence. Some critics believe the movie forces the audience to sympathize with the Joker and could lead to marginalized individuals feeling validated in their desire to act out violently.

Family members of those killed in Aurora, Colorado condemn the film

Family members of the 12 individuals killed in Aurora, Colorado, in July 2012 shared their feelings publicly. By and large, the family members worried that the creation of the film was a bit insensitive, and could lead to similar acts of violence.

In July 2012, James Holmes entered a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, through an emergency exit. He opened fire, killing twelve individuals and wounding 70. Holmes, suffering from a mental health crisis, had dyed his hair red in the weeks before the shooting and called himself the Joker. The tragedy occurred during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises.

'Joker' billboard in West Hollywood
‘Joker’ billboard | Mario Tama/Getty Images

Family members of those killed in the rampage wrote a letter to executives at Warner Bros. studios, noting their concerns over the film. In the correspondence, the families of the victims indicated that the shooting was “perpetrated by a socially isolated individual who felt ‘wronged’ by society.” Joker covers similar themes, and Phoenix has even defended the film for its intense look behind the curtain of childhood trauma and what drives people to act out.

Family members of the victims did not ask the studio to halt production, according to The Washington Post. Instead, they asked Warner Bros. to suspend contributions to political figures who fight for gun rights or take donations from the NRA. The movie theater where the tragedy took place made the decision not to screen Joker.

The role is known to be tragic and difficult

Inciting violence among marginalized individuals was a significant concern for police and the public, and for a good reason. Not only has it happened before, but the role of the Joker is known to be inherently stressful. In fact, several actors who have taken on the character have suffered as a side effect.

Jack Nicholson has spoken openly about how the role of the Joker haunted him for years. He has also shared his belief that the part played in a role in the death of Heath Ledger. Ledger reportedly wasn’t sleeping following his work on The Dark Knight. Anxious, depressed, and sleep-deprived, Ledger accidentally took a deadly drug cocktail. Nicholson reportedly warned Ledger about the pitfalls of the character when he signed on to the film, according to The Daily News.

Jared Leto, who took on the role in Suicide Squad, admitted the part was a challenging one, and he forced himself to stay in character for the duration of filming. Leto, however, seemingly walked away from the film unscathed. The same might not be true for Phoenix, who has been notoriously volatile on the set and in recent interviews. In fact, he’s become agitated and walked out of more than one meeting.