Joaquin Phoenix’s “Joker” scored a record $13.3 million on Thursday night in North America.

The figure is above the $10 million in previews that was earned a year ago by “Venom,” which posted an $80 million opening weekend — both records for October. It’s the biggest preview number since “The Lion King” pulled in $23 million in July and portends a potential record opening. “Joker” has been forecast for a similarly massive debut in the $80 million to $95 million range from 4,374 North American theaters for Warner Bros.

The previews began at 4 p.m.

The R-rated “Joker” is directed by Todd Phillips from a screenplay he wrote with Scott Silver about a failed stand-up comedian who becomes a psychopathic criminal. Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Bill Camp and Marc Maron also star. Concerns have been raised about the violence-laden film glamorizing a mass killer. New York and Los Angeles police are deploying officers to theaters screening the film this weekend.

“Weeks of speculation as to ‘Joker’s’ opening weekend performance and its status as one of the most talked about movies of the year have made the acclaimed (and controversial) film a must-see cinematic event,” Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian said.

“Joker” premiered on Aug. 31 at the Venice Film Festival, where it won the Golden Lion, the festival’s highest prize. The pic polarized critics — while Phoenix’s performance has been lauded, the comic-book adaptation’s dark tone and handling of violence have generated a divisive response. “Joker” currently has a 69% score from critics on Rotten Tomatoes.

“Joker” has pulled in $5.4 million in international previews and early showings Wednesday in four markets. It opened in 43 additional markets on Thursday and will launch in another 26 on Friday.

“Joker” is opening following a solid September at the domestic box office. The overall 2019 total trails last year by 5.3% with $8.48 billion as of Oct. 2, according to Comscore.

Producers on “Joker” are Phillips, Emma Tillinger and Bradley Cooper. Along with DC Films, production companies are Village Roadshow, Bryn Creative and Joint Effort Productions.

Universal’s second weekend of animated adventure “Abominable” will likely lead the rest of the pack at the domestic box office in the $10 million to $15 million range. The third frame of Focus’ “Downton Abby,” STX’s fourth weekend of “Hustlers” and Warner’s fifth session of “It: Chapter Two” will be battling for third in the $7 million to $9 million range.