LOS ANGELES)    -   The filmmakers and studio behind “Joker” have reason to put on a happy face. Despite concerns over its violent themes and ramped up theater security, audiences flocked to the multiplex to check out the R-rated film this weekend resulting in a record October opening.

Warner Bros. said Sunday that “Joker” grossed an estimated $93.5 million in ticket sales from 4,374 screens in North America. The previous October record-holder was the Spider-Man spinoff “Venom” which opened to $80 million last year. Internationally, “Joker” earned $140.5 million from 73 markets, resulting in a stunning $234 million global debut.

“This was a much larger result at the box office than we had ever anticipated globally,” said Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros.’ president of domestic distribution. “Putting records aside, we’re just thrilled that audiences are embracing the movie as strong as they are.”

Since debuting at the Venice Film Festival where it won the prestigious Golden Lion last month, “Joker” has been both praised and criticized for its dark spin on the classic Batman villain played by Joaquin Phoenix. The film from director and co-writer Todd Phillips was always seen as a bit of a gamble with one of the studios’ most valuable pieces of intellectual property, hence its modest-for-a-comic-book-film $55 million budget.

But in the weeks leading up to its release, hype and uneasiness intensified beyond how audiences would react to placing this character in a realistic and unambiguously adult setting with “Taxi Driver” undertones. Responding to anxiety that the film might have the potential to inspire violence, multiple theater chains banned costumes or reaffirmed earlier policies regarding masks and authorities in numerous cities said they were stepping police patrols around theaters. Some relatives of the 2012 Aurora movie theater shooting even asked Warner Bros. to commit to gun control causes — the studio said it always has.