‘Joker’ is still laughing, but ‘Maleficent’ is not too far behind

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‘Joker’ is still laughing, but ‘Maleficent’ is not too far behind

Put on a happy face. “Joker” is No. 1 again.

Todd Phillip’s R-rated comic-book hit regained the top spot at the weekend box office in its fourth week of release, narrowly besting “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.” The Warner Bros.’ sensation, starring Joaquin Phoenix, took in $18.9 million in ticket sales in North America over the weekend, according to studio estimates Sunday.

That came in just above the $18.6 million haul for the Walt Disney Co.’s “Maleficent” sequel, which slid to second after a disappointing No. 1 debut last weekend of $36 million. “Mistress of Evil,” starring Angelina Jolie, is performing better overseas, where it grossed $64.3 million over the weekend.

With such a close race at the top between “Joker” and “Mistress of Evil,” the order could switch when final figures are released Monday.

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But ticket sales have continued to surge well past expectations for “Joker.” With a modest budget of $60 million, it’s been extraordinarily profitable for Warner Bros. - although the studio, to mitigate risk, shared costs with Bron Studios and Village Roadshow Pictures.

This week, “Joker” became the most successful R-rated moved ever, not accounting for inflation, in a worldwide release. It has made $849 million globally, including $47.8 million internationally over the weekend. (Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” remains the R-rated domestic leader, with $370.8 million.)

Despite mixed reviews, “Joker” - a “Taxi Driver”-styled spin on a comic-book origin story - has already amassed a box-office total exceeding that of more mainstream superhero movies such as “Thor: Ragnarok” and “Wonder Woman.”

No new releases mustered any competition with the holdovers. The best-performing newcomer was the STX Entertainment horror thriller “Countdown.” It grossed $9 million. Sony Screen Gems’ “Black and Blue,” a police thriller starring Naomie Harris, opened with $8.3 million.

Holding especially well was “The Addams Family,” United Artists’ and MGM’s Halloween-timed animated reboot of the macabre family. It slid just 28 percent in its second weekend with $11.7 million, good for third place.

Much of the weekend’s action was in limited or expanding releases for acclaimed Oscar contenders.

Robert Eggers’ “The Lighthouse,” a black-and-white psychological drama starring Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson as 19th century lighthouse keepers, made $3 million on just 586 screens for A24. Taika Waititi’s “Jojo Rabbit,” about a 10-year-old boy growing up in Nazi Germany, expanded into 55 theaters, earning a strong $1 million. In September, the Fox Searchlight release won the Toronto Film Festival’s highly predictive audience award, setting it up as a potential Academy Awards favorite. Its initial expansion suggests it will be a hit with audiences, too.

Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s “The Current War” also finally landed in theaters more than two years after it first premiered. Gomez-Rejon recut his film after Harvey Weinstein, shortly before his downfall, pushed out a critically panned version of the Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon) tale. Gomez-Rejon’s “director’s cut,” which 101 Studios acquired from the now-defunct Weinstein Co., opened with $2.7 million from about a thousand theaters.

“Terminator: Dark Fate,” which is expected to lead the box office next weekend, got off to a $12.8 million start in a handful of international markets before its stateside debut.

AP

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