There was heavy security at Wednesday night's New York opening of the controversial new movie "Joker."
Counterterrorism cops with automatic weapons flanked the entrance to the theater at the normally glitzy Lincoln Center. Movie fans were checked with wands or had their bags searched.
All New York theaters showing the movie will reportedly have a police presence. Some of the officers will be undercover. Cops in Los Angeles and Chicago are also beefing up security.
In the movie, Joaquin Phoenix plays a downtrodden loner who adopts the Joker persona to inflict extreme violence. The film echoes the Martin Scorsese films of the '70s and '80s like “Taxi Driver” and “The King of Comedy,” where isolated men take their rage out on the world that they are trying to be a part of.
“Joker” even features “Taxi Driver” and “King of Comedy” star Robert De Niro.
Some critics fear the movie may prompt violence after the 2012 shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, where “The Dark Knight Rises” was being shown. Twelve people were killed.
Even the Pentagon has warned of a "potential risk" at "Joker" screenings, telling servicemembers "when entering theaters, identify two escape routes ... if a shooter finds you, fight with whatever you can."
The Pentagon specifically mentions "incels," involuntarily celibate young men whose frustrations could boil over.
While authorities stress there have been no credible threats, many are wary.
The AMC Theatres chain says "guests are welcome to come dressed in costume, but we do not permit masks, face paint or any object that conceals the face."
Landmark Theatres say "no masks, painted faces or costumes will be permitted."
Reviews were mostly positive and at last month’s Venice Film Festival, the film received a seven-minute standing ovation.
Forbes calls "Joker" "a phenomenal film." The New York Post critic, however, says it's "punishingly dull."
Nonetheless, "Joker" is expected to make a bundle at the box office.
"Either despite the controversy or because of it 'Joker''s going to open really well," said Rebecca Keegan, senior film editor at The Hollywood Reporter. "It should make more $80 million this weekend, which would set an October record."