Joker is continuing to stir controversy on its opening weekend, after some fans stormed out of theaters around the world saying the movie was too disturbing and ‘triggering’.
The R-rated supervillain flick smashed October opening-day box office records after taking home $39.9 million in domestic ticket sales on Friday, and is on pace to take in an eye-watering $92 million weekend total.
But not everyone is embracing the dark, ultra-violent film, which sees Joaquin Phoenix portray Arthur Fleck, the embattled clown who later transforms into Batman’s most iconic nemesis.
On fan wrote on Twitter: ‘Literally just walked out of a screening of Joker. Way too terrifying to be there with all this going on the way the movie glamorizes gun violence and mental health issues.’
Others have gone as far as calling for the movie to be banned from theaters, saying that it promotes violence and could even inspire a mass shooting.
Thus far on opening weekend, there have been no reports of violence at screenings, after police across the nation went on high alert and beefed up security at theaters.
There have been isolated disruptions at screenings, though nothing so serious as an actual shooting.
In Huntington Beach, California, one theater cancelled two screenings Thursday night after receiving a threat, police said. Friday showings have resumed as scheduled.
In New York City, police responded to a screening after one audience member sparked fears by spitting on others and clapping loudly every time the Joker killed someone.
Fearing he had ill intentions, police escorted the man out of the theater. A witness reported that the man had poured a bottle of tequila into his slushie before the movie began.
‘S**t was scary – like a 4-D movie experience,’ the witness tweeted.
Last laugh: Joker sets $39.9M opening day record for October
After taking home $39.9 million in Friday domestic ticket sales — the biggest October opening day ever — Joker is eyeing a huge $92 million weekend total.
That’s on the higher end of initial box office projections, which saw the film debuting in the $80 million to $95 million range. Either way, the film is likely to beat previous October opening weekend record holder “Venom,” which opened to $80.3 million last year.
Joker has generated widespread controversy for its villainous depiction of evil, prompting some theaters to increase security.
The movie is also generating ticket sales overseas where it scored $32.7 million from 73 foreign markets, bringing its international total up to $57.2 million. Top Friday openers included the United Kingdom ($4.7 million), Mexico ($4.2 million), Japan ($1.9 million) and Spain ($1.4 million).
Behind Joker is Universal’s animated adventure Abominable, which took home $2.7 million in its second weekend. Downton Abby came in third with $2.4 million and STX’s fourth weekend of Hustlers scored another $1.9 million. Rounding out the top five was Warner Bros.’ It: Chapter Two which nabbed $1.4 million.
Some fans unprepared for the movie’s dark intensity took to Twitter to reveal that they had walked out of screenings.
Twitter users wrote: ‘Just walked out of #Joker. Haven’t been that anxious in a movie theater since GOOD TIME. F**k man…’
‘I’ve never walked out of a movie but with Joker I came very close… Would have walked out of the joker after an hour if the missus would have let me! #dontdoitfolks’
‘If I didn’t see Joker with a friend I probably would’ve walked out of the theater thinking someone should tell Trump to shut up… White dude next to me walked out of Joker in the last few minutes of the movie had me a little shook not gonna lie…’
‘I walked out of this movie #Joker BAN THIS MOVIE!! It’s a psychological approach on the mind! I was rooting for him until s**t got real… Oh man…’
‘By unanimous decision, the four of us walked out of the Joker movie. I haven’t walked out of a movie in years… I have never walked out of a theater more uncomfortable than I am right now walking out of Joker…
‘What a f**ked up movie… Literally just walked out of a screening of Joker. Way too terrifying to be there with all this going on the way the movie glamorizes gun violence and mental health issues.’
Both Phoenix and director Todd Phillips have defended the film, with the actor saying he trusts audiences to know the difference between right and wrong.
Phillips recently revealed he was surprised by the criticism of Joker because he took measures to instill ‘real-world implications’ of violence not often found in cartoon films and television shows.
The 48-year-old director revealed during the New York Film Festival on Wednesday night that his depictions of violence were a needed departure from the glorification found in other action movies.
Phoenix portrayed the character as bullied man Arthur Fleck who — after living on the outskirts of society — snaps and begins to take revenge on those who have wronged him.
‘That’s the surprising thing to me,’ he said at the movie’s East Coast premiere. ‘I thought, isn’t that a good thing, to put real-world implications on violence?’
Phillips feels as though he has acted responsibility as a creative to show audiences what the real implications of violence are.
‘Isn’t it a good thing to take away the cartoon element about violence that we’ve become so immune to? I was a little surprised when it turns into that direction, that it’s irresponsible,’ he said.
‘Because, to me, it’s very responsible to make it feel real and make it have weight and implications.’
Despite receiving critical acclaim, social media monitoring FBI agents in the US have warned it could inspire screening attacks from incels – a term which refers to men who are ‘involuntarily celibate’ and blame their situation on women.