It seems the opening weekend of "Joker" could be as enigmatic as the Clown Prince of Crime himself.
The predictions for the Batman spinoff, which profiles a version of DC Comics' villain Joker, have been all over the map, with some foreseeing the flick taking in just $50 million during its opening weekend while others expecting more than twice that amount.
After receiving rave reviews from its debut at the Venice Film Festival in August, "Joker" has drawn more criticism as it heads toward its opening on Friday. The Warner Bros. film holds a 72% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
While some have praised Todd Phillips' story and direction, and Joaquin Phoenix's portrayal, many have questioned whether the film, which depicts mass murder, could unintentionally be portraying Joker as a heroic or inspirational figure.
Others wonder if comic book fans who have supported action-packed superhero flicks in the past will be drawn to a more subdued character piece.
"I do expect fans to show up," said Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Boxoffice.com. "There's been a demand for over 11 years to see that kind of a Joker again on the screen."
Fans fell in love with Heath Ledger's portrayal of the Joker in 2008's "The Dark Knight." The performance was unlike anything that audiences had seen from the character. While he possessed the same gravitas and personality as Joker, he was also somehow darker and more grounded than the previous animated TV and film iterations of the character.
"The bigger X factor is how is it going to play after those fans show up," Robbins said, noting that if fans dislike the film, it could see a massive downturn in ticket sales during its second week in theaters.
Robbins predicts "Joker" could have an $80 million-plus opening weekend and could dethrone "Venom" as the highest-grossing film ever released in October. "Venom," a film about the origins of one of Spider-Man's best-known villains, hauled in $80.2 million during its opening weekend last year.
However, not all film analysts foresee a massive opening for "Joker."
"I don't see a $100 million opening weekend," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore. "This is not a traditional superhero movie."
Dergarabedian noted that "Joker" is less of an action-packed blockbuster and more of a psychological thriller and a character piece. Therefore, it may not have as big of an opening weekend as other, more typical comic book-based movies.
In fact, the highest grossing thriller film that centers around a serial killer is "Hannibal," which took in $58 million during its opening in 2001. The second highest was "Red Dragon" with $36.5 million in box office receipts for its opening in 2002.
Of course, the allure of a Joker origin story could elevate the film above those figures. Currently, "Joker" has the second-best advanced ticket sales for an R-rated movie this year behind "John Wick: Chapter 3," according to Atom Tickets. It is also outpacing the presales for "Venom," the company said.
Notably, the third "John Wick" film hauled in around $56.8 million during its opening.
Also factored into some analysts' forecasts is the increased security measures being placed at movie theaters around the U.S. ahead of the "Joker" release. The decision to boost safety measures has been tied to a 2012 shooting that occurred during a screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora, Colorado, where 12 people were shot to death and 70 were wounded.
Both Landmark Theaters and AMC, the nation's largest movie chain, have banned masks or painted faces, although customers are permitted to dress up otherwise.