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Joker sets record on N American screens

It has drawn mixed reviews, with the Washington Post calling it grim and shallow, while Hollywood Reporter says it got a B+ CinemaScore rating

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Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Joker provides the back story 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.

Los Angeles

WARNER Bros' Joker has survived the intense controversy over its violent themes to take in an estimated US$93.5 million in North American theatres over the weekend, setting a record for an October release, industry watcher Exhibitor Relations reported on Sunday.

Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Joker provides the back story 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 theatres provided extra security for the opening of Joker.

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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 per cent on the Rotten Tomatoes website.

Universal's family-friendly Abominable was placed a distant second at the box office, earning US$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 US$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 was placed fourth, at US$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 US$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 to do it again.

Rounding out the weekend's top 10 were: Ad Astra (US$4.6 million); Judy (US$4.4 million); Rambo: Last Blood (US$3.6 million); War (US$1.6 million); and Good Boys (US$900,000). AFP