Entertainment

'Joker' gets last laugh, setting a record on North American screens

'Joker' gets last laugh, setting a record on North American screens

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Warner Bros.  "Joker" has survived the intense controversy over its violent themes to take in an estimated $93.5 million in North American theaters this weekend, setting a record for an October release, industry watcher Exhibitor Relations reported Sunday.

Starring Joaquin Phoenix, "Joker" provides the backstory for the rise of Batman s maniacal nemesis, painting a dark and disturbing portrayal of a would-be stand-up comedian s descent into madness.

Amid fears that it might inspire violence -- a shooting at a 2012 screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora, Colorado claimed 12 lives -- some theaters provided extra security for the opening of "Joker."

The film, directed by Todd Phillips (maker of "The Hangover" trilogy), has drawn tepid reviews; the Washington Post called it "grim, shallow (and) distractingly derivative." But Hollywood Reporter said the R-rated film got a B+ CinemaScore rating and earned 69 percent on the Rotten Tomatoes website.

Universal s family-friendly "Abominable" placed a distant second at the box office, earning $12 million for the Friday-to-Sunday period in its second weekend. It tells the story of a teen and her friends trying to help a young Yeti reunite with its family as a wealthy man seeks to capture it as a prize.

In third, at $8 million, was Focus Features  "Downton Abbey," the cinematic follow-up to the hit TV series about an upper-class family and their stately home in a changing Britain. The movie has the Crawleys and their earnest staff scrambling to prepare for an unexpected visit by the British royals.

"Hustlers" from STX Films placed fourth, at $6.3 million. The Jennifer Lopez movie is based on a true story about strippers who plot to steal from their wealthy clients in recession-hit New York.

And in fifth was horror film "IT: Chapter Two," at $5.4 million. The Warner Bros. movie features the grown-up versions of the kids who battled the terrifying clown Pennywise 27 years earlier as they are forced do it again.