After all the anticipation and controversy, Joker finally rolled into theaters Thursday night so fans everywhere could finally see for themselves what director Todd Phillips and star Joaquin Phoenix had done with the Clown Prince of Crime, and the opening night box office did not disappoint. According to The Hollywood Reporter, film earned a whopping $13.3 million in Thursday night previews across the country, topping Venom's Thursday total ($10 million) from last year and setting a new preview night record for October.
As the film rolls out this weekend it's projected to top $80 million at the domestic box office, with gives it a solid chance of dethroning Venom and its $80.3 million total from 2018 to become the highest-opening film in October ever. Phoenix and Phillips are aware of the buzz, and they're apparently taking some time to say thanks.
The director and star of Joker surprised fans at a screening of the film in Lincoln Square in New York City Thursday night, and received a standing ovation as the film ended.
“The audience was thrilled to see both of them,” Humungus editor-in-chief John DeVore, who was at the screening, told People. “They seemed to love the movie, and I doubt Philips and Phoenix could have received a warmer welcome.”
Some fans in attendance at the screening took short videos of Phillips and Phoenix thanking the audience and waving after the screening, to cries of "Thank you so much!" from moviegoers.
Joker made its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival in Augusut, and it ultimately earned that festival's highest honor, the Golden Lion. Early critical acclaim later gave way to controversy, as families of gun violence victims raised concerns that the film could inspire copycats, prompting some law enforcement agencies to be on heightened alert for Joker's opening weekend. Phoenix and Phillips addressed the controversy while promoting the film, urging moviegoers to see it before passing judgement, and now all that buzz is generating major box office dollars.
As the film continued to gain momentum throughout the weekend, Phoenix also kept popping up at screenings. By Saturday night he was back in Los Angeles and crashing multiple showings of Joker at the Alamo Drafthouse to greet fans as the credits rolled and even stick around for a few selfies.
Phoenix has reason to be in a good mood. Apart from the Oscar buzz he's getting for his performance in the film, Joker has since gone on to break Venom's record for the best opening weekend of all time in October, with more than $93 million.
Note: This story was originally posted October 3 and updated October 6.