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‘Joker’ Reclaims No. 1 Spot on Box Office Charts

By Rebecca Rubin

LOS ANGELES (Variety) – Put on a happy face: In its fourth weekend in theaters, Warner Bros.’ “Joker” returned to the top of domestic box office charts, narrowly defeating Disney’s “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.”

The two villains had been in a close race for first place, but Sunday estimates show “” will walk away victorious with $18.9 million in ticket sales. Those rankings could change Monday morning after final tallies are reported since “Maleficent 2” is trailing behind with $18.5 million.

It’s rare for any film to claim No. 1 in its fourth outing, but the surprise (and non-consecutive) win for “Joker” highlights its impressive endurance despite initial fears that it would incite violence. It’s only the third movie this year — following Universal’s “Glass” and Disney’s “Avengers: Endgame” — to secure in first place during three weekends. “Joker” also recently became the most successful R-rated movie in history, collecting $849 million worldwide. Joaquin Phoenix’s gritty take on Batman’s infamous nemesis has generated $277 million in North America and $571 million at the international box office.

Since topping domestic charts last weekend with disappointing $36 million, Angelina Jolie’s “” has generated a lackluster $65 million at the North American box office. The dark fantasy sequel continues to see better results overseas , where it pulled in another $64.3 million for an international haul of $228 million. Globally, the “Maleficent” follow-up is nearing the $300 million mark with ticket sales currently at $293 million.

STX’s horror thriller “Countdown” had the strongest start among new offerings, placing fifth with $9 million from 2,675 venues. The PG-13 film, about a nurse who downloads an app that predicts when a person is going to die, cost $6.5 million.

Sony’s R-rated action drama “Black and Blue” launched at No. 6 with $8 million from 2,062 theaters. Directed by Deon Taylor, the $12 million film follows a rookie cop (Naomie Harris) who inadvertently captures the murder of a young drug dealer on her body cam.

Despite higher ticket sales for “Countdown,” moviegoers who turned out on opening weekend appeared far more enthusiastic about “Black and Blue.” The former has a bleak C+ CinemaScore from audiences, while the latter holds a rare A+. “Black and Blue” is rated R, which could have limited the scope of potential ticket buyers who might still be showing up to see “Joker.” However, positive word-of-mouth could bode well for its future.

Behind-the-scenes turmoil appeared far more interesting than the movie itself for this weekend’s final newcomer, “The Current War.” The historical drama arrived in theaters two years after Harvey Weinstein premiered it at the 2017 Toronto Film Festival. After sexual abuse allegations were leveled against Weinstein and his company shuttered, “The Current War” was shelved and sold to Lantern, who then sold domestic rights to 101 Studios, the company created by former Weinstein Company COO David Glasser. “The Current War” earned a dismal $2.7 million from 1,022 screens, marking one of the lowest openings for a nationwide release.

Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, “The Current War” depicts a tense battle between electricity giants Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon) — who teams up with Nikola Tesla (Nicholas Hoult) — as the men determine whose electrical system will power the modern world.

Despite playing in half the amount of theaters, A24’s “The Lighthouse” landed at No. 8 and beat “The Current War” on box office charts. The black-and-white psychological thriller — starring Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe — collected $3 million from 586 locations in its second outing. “The Lighthouse,” co-financed by New Regency, has made $3.6 million to date.

Another awards contender that continues to impress is Neon’s “Parasite,” a dark social satire from director Bong Joon Ho. In its third frame, “Parasite” made $1.8 million from just 189 theaters, averaging a strong $14,107 per location. To date, the movie has earned $4.1 million in North America.

Fox Searchlight’s “Jojo Rabbit” scored the highest screen average of the weekend with $1 million from 55 theaters ($18,500 per venue) for a domestic total of $1.4 million. Written and directed by Taika Waititi (who also stars in the film as an absurdist imaginary Adolf Hitler), “Jojo Rabbit” is set during World War II and follows a young boy eager to join the Hitler Youth, who discovers his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their attic.

“There are encouraging signs regarding ‘Jojo Rabbit’ as we continue to build momentum,” said Frank Rodriguez, Fox Searchlight’s head of domestic distribution. “The polling results from this week coupled with the A CinemaScore from last weekend, along with the solid box office results are more than positive and as we move forward over the next few weeks, there is every reason to be optimistic about the film.”

Warner Bros. also unveiled the Bruce Springsteen concert film “Western Stars” in 532 theaters. Despite positive reviews, the documentary failed to crack the top 20, opening to $560,000. Combined with Fathom Events’ preview screenings, “Western Stars” has made $1 million.

Another musical film, Kanye West’s “Jesus Is King,” earned $1.04 million from 440 Imax screens this weekend. The 30-minute film, in partnership with Imax, showcases West’s famed Sunday Service and played in limited showings around Imax’s regularly scheduled screenings. The movie, tied to the release of his new album, played in 24 cities across the globe, including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Also in limited release, Saban Films and Kevin Smith’s “Jay & Silent Bob Reboot” pulled in $219,397 from 17 screens for a domestic tally of $1.5 million.

In box office milestones, Roadside Attractions had two films, “Judy” and “The Peanut Butter Falcon,” that crossed the $20 million mark in North America, a strong result for an independent distributor.

Rounding out the top five in North America, MGM’s animated comedy “The Addams Family” came in third place with $11.7 million, boosting its domestic tally to $72.8 million and $83.9 million globally. In fourth, Sony’s “Zombieland: Double Tap” brought in $11.6 million for a North American haul of $47 million.

Overall, the domestic box office has declined over 5% from last year, according to Comscore. Outside of any surprise hits, Hollywood is banking on reliables like Disney’s “Frozen 2” and “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” and Sony’s “Jumanji: The Next Level” to boost revenues.

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