By Jessica Marmor Shaw and Terrence Horan
MarketWatch photo illustration/Everett Collection, iStockphoto
“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 not only killed it at the box office — it has also dominated the Oscar nominations.
The supervillain’s origin story nabbed 11 nominations when the Academy Award nominees were announced on Monday morning, including best picture, best director, best actor and best adapted screenplay. That makes it the most nominated superhero movie in the history of the Oscars, passing the eight noms of previous record holder “The Dark Knight” in 2008, which also featured the Joker character. (In fact, Heath Ledger received a posthumous Academy Award for best supporting actor for playing the role.) And this latest Joker managed to edge out Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” on Netflix /zigman2/quotes/202353025/composite NFLX +1.16% , Sam Mendes’s WWI movie “1917” and Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood,” which scored 10 nominations each.
“Joker,” which made headlines for its extreme violence, becomes the most nominated superhero movie in Oscar’s history, beating out eight nominations for the 2008 film also featuring the Joker character, “The Dark Knight.” Last year, the Disney-owned /zigman2/quotes/203410047/composite DIS -0.56% “Black Panther” won three Oscars and was nominated for seven, including best picture.
While the latest DC Comics film scored plenty of rave reviews ahead of its Oct. 4, 2019 release, its plot — a troubled comedian descends into murderous villainy and incites an uprising among Gotham’s impoverished masses — it also 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 was strong: 68% of its global take has come from outside the U.S.
It landed at No. 9 on the list of top box-office hauls for 2019 (previously at No. 7), far behind the $2.8 billion for “Avengers: Endgame,” which is also the top-grossing film of all time. And “Joker” came very close to coming even with “Aladdin,” with a final global take of $1,066,746,521.
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:
“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 /zigman2/quotes/203410047/composite DIS -0.56% 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 /zigman2/quotes/203165245/composite T -0.68% .
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.
This story was originally published in November 2019, and has been updated with the Oscar nominations and most recent box office figures.