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‘Joker’ set for historic, record-breaking opening weekend. But the R-rating may hurt its potential.

‘Joker’ will hit theaters next month. Its opening weekend is slated to be huge.

Joaquin Phoenix appears as Arthur Fleck in “Joker.”
Joaquin Phoenix appears as Arthur Fleck in “Joker.”
Screenshot

The opening weekend for “Joker” is no laughing matter.

The new Todd Phillips film is on pace for a $90 million opening weekend, which would make it the largest opening for an October film in history, according to Deadline.

Current projections suggest it would surpass the previous record-holder, “Venom,” which debuted in October 2018 with $80.2 million.

However, “Joker’s” R-rating means it will earn less than it could. “Venom” was rated PG-13, which helped secure box office dollars from younger audiences, Deadline reports.

Other R-rated comic book films have had success at the box office, though, including “Deadpool” ($132.4 million), “Deadpool 2” (125.5 million), “Logan” ($88.4 million) and “Watchmen” ($55.2 million).

“Joker” will tell the origin story of the Batman comic book villain the Joker in a contemporary and gritty way. It stars Joaquin Phoenix as a man named Arthur Fleck, who descends into madness due to bullying and modern society.

The film has received mostly positive reviews. Audiences cheered for eight minutes after its debut at the Venice Film Festival.

But other reviews suggest the film could be controversial, as the Deseret News previously reported. “That all but guarantees that ‘Joker’ will be a topic of fierce debate at Toronto ... as critics and audiences grapple over the questions of whether it’s a brilliant piece of art or a danger to society,” according to Variety.

Stephanie Zacharek of Time magazine was one of the reviewers who criticized the film for its potential controversy, writing that it’s trying to be more than it is.

“But it’s not as if we don’t know how this pathology works: In America, there’s a mass shooting or attempted act of violence by a guy like Arthur practically every other week,” she wrote. “And yet we’re supposed to feel some sympathy for Arthur, the troubled lamb; he just hasn’t had enough love. Before long, he becomes a vigilante folk hero — his first signature act is to kill a trio of annoying Wall Street spuds while riding the subway, which inspires the masses to don clown masks and march enthusiastically around the city with ‘Kill the Rich!’ placards.”

“Joker” is rated R for strong bloody violence, disturbing behavior, language and brief sexual images.