‘Joker’ (Photo credit: Warner Bros)

Is Todd Phillips’ Joker an enthralling masterpiece or a disturbing and deeply derivative incitement to commit violence? The comic book-inspired movie has polarised the critics but audiences in Australia and around the world have voted with their feet.

The action adventure starring Joaquin Phoenix as the twisted, disenfranchised clown-for-hire and stand-up comic in 1980s Gotham smashed industry opening records for October in Oz, the US and internationally last weekend.

Meanwhile Rachel Griffiths’ Ride Like a Girl now ranks as the top-grossing Australian release of the year after racing through its second weekend. Ticket sales surged thanks to the school holidays and the new releases including Indian import War and Chinese dramas My People, My Country and The Captain.

The top 20 titles harvested $21.9 million from Thursday through Sunday, 80 per cent up on the previous weekend, according to Numero.

Joker punched up $9.7 million and $11.9 million including the Monday Labor Day holiday. The Warner Bros/Village Roadshow/Bron Studios’ production raked in $95 million in the US and $248.2 million worldwide, beating the October opening record held by Venom.

“The opening weekend blew away all expectations at our cinema and nationally,” says Cinema Nova GM Kristian Connelly. “While Joker has ridden the unerring enthusiasm for superhero adaptations, its Golden Lion win at the Venice Film Festival and the film’s social-uprising themes (eerily reminiscent of both the Hong Kong and global warming protests) have brought it to a broader audience than might otherwise have embraced it.”

Universal/DreamWorks Animation’s Abominable ranked second, mustering $1.7 million in its third frame, hoisting the total to $6.2 million. The saga of a young yeti’s journey to get back to his family on Mount Everest, written and directed by Jill Culton, has generated $37.8 million after its second weekend in the US and $77.9 million worldwide.

Griffiths’ Michelle Payne biopic Ride Like a Girl starring Teresa Palmer, Sam Neill, Sullivan Stapleton and Stevie Payne galloped along to $5.67 million after corralling $1.6 million at the weekend and $377,000 on Monday.

The Transmission Films release scripted by Andrew Knight and Elise McCredie, produced by Richard Keddie, has surpassed Top End Wedding’s $5.2 million and Storm Boy’s $5 million and is heading for north of $10 million.

Sony Pictures’ The Angry Birds 2 flew to $7.5 million after scoring $1.5 million in its fourth outing. The CGI animated comedy co-directed by first-timers Thurop Van Orman and John Rice has earned $41.7 million in the US and $90 million internationally, with no chance of catching the original’s $352.3 million worldwide haul.

Paramount’s Queensland-shot Dora and the Lost City of Gold moved along to $4.9 million after pocketing $1.07 million in its third. The adventure comedy adapted from the Nickelodeon TV series, directed by James Bobin, has collected $110.2 million worldwide, not a great return on a reported production budget of $49 million.

Universal/Focus Features’ crowdpleaser Downton Abbey commanded $908,000 in its fourth, advancing to $11.3 million. The Michael Engler-directed movie featuring an ensemble cast led by Maggie Smith, Michelle Dockery and Joanne Froggatt has grossed a handsome $135.8 million globally.

Universal’s Good Boys rang up $649,000 in its third, bringing the total to $4.6 million. Predictably the Seth Rogen-produced teen comedy directed by Gene Stupnitsky is resonating far better in the US with $82 million than in the rest of the world, where it’s taken $25.5 million.

Hindi-language action thriller War, which stars Hrithik Roshan and Tiger Shroff in the tale of a soldier assigned to eliminate his former mentor who has gone rogue, directed by Siddharth Anand, captured $571,000 on 55 screens and $702,000 with previews for Mind Blowing Films.

Fox/Disney’s Ad Astra topped $5 million after adding $547,000 in its third frame. The $100 million-budgeted James Gray-directed sci-fi adventure starring Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Liv Tyler and Donald Sutherland is a likely loss maker, earning $43.6 million in the US and $67.7 million internationally.

The seven-part anthology drama My People, My Country from directors Chen Kaige, Zhang Yibai, Guan Hu, Xue Xiaolu, Xu Zheng, Ning Hao and Wen Muye, which opened in China last month to mark the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, bagged $515,000 on 35 screens and $1 million with advance screenings for distributor CMC.

Director Andrew Lau’s The Captain, a drama based on a real-life incident in May 2018, when the windshield of a Sichuan Airlines flight shattered, the co-pilot was sucked halfway out of the cockpit but the captain managed to land the plane safely, collected $292,000 on 17 screens and $563,000 with previews for Magnum Films.

Two alternate content releases made useful contributions. Paramount’s Paw Patrol: Ready Race Rescue fetched $576,000 while Trafalgar Releasing’s concert pic Roger Waters: Us + Them rang up $164,000.

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