With the opening weekend box office published, it has not been a kind weekend for Birds of Prey. Domestically it has grossed $33 million and internationally $48 million for a combined $81 million. No matter how you put it, this is poor and worrisome. I had mentioned in a previous article that it was on my list for films to be worried about and even back then I said it would not be because of the film. There are a whole lot of mitigating circumstances regarding this low number, so I thought it would be wise to break it down here.
As a note, I do need to state that I have not seen Birds of Prey just yet and my thoughts are all based on what I have noticed on the build-up to its release.
I stated in my previous post, but the marketing has been next to non-existent for what is essential DC’s second-biggest film of the year. The trailers never got out of first gear and I had thought I was in the minority when I stated that the second trailer actually made me wary of the film. Less is more with lower budget comic book films and it seemed like Birds of Prey was showing too much and most worryingly not enough of the actual Birds of Prey, 20-second bites of them were not enough.
If they had the time to really build these characters, short teasers focused on each character would have helped. DC is not Marvel and cannot just hope that people will like these new characters (too much of the film going audiences) like they did with Guardians of the Galaxy, a little bit of work is needed to help the profile. Hell even when Shazam was being promoted a lot of talks was about The Rock is Black Adam. NO, focus on what you have DC!
The trailers never got a good amount of trending steam, unlike Wonder Woman which did well on social media. The posters were just of Harley Quinn with some characters in the background, which leads us directly to the next problem.
Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn is an absolute shocker of a title. I mean truly terrible. For non-comic book fans, they will have no idea who the Birds of Prey are and the marketing has been simply calling it Birds of Prey. If your main star is Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, then the title NEEDS to start with her name. Having her on the posters isn’t going to cut it sadly.
Imagine if the title was Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey… Wouldn’t that simply just work far better? That tried to be too cute and on the nose with the title and I feel it has seriously cost them. If someone is looking at something to watch, not many cinemas or listings are going to have that full title. It will say Birds of Prey (15 or R). You need a title that grabs the attention, not gives someone a headache. Poor decisions again here.
Edit: I wrote this post early Monday evening UK time and schedules it for today and since that gap it has been reported that Warner Brothers have or are in the process of changing the name to Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey DURING it’s theatrical run. We will talk more about that later on today.
The age rating
Although Suicide Squad was rated R, did Harley actually do anything in it that required her to keep this an R? Is there enough to edit and tweak to give Birds of Prey a PG-13/12A? As mentioned I have not seen the film, but I would hazard a guess and assume that they could. A lot of the Harley Quinn fandom came from a younger audience, so by limiting that audience into waiting for streaming or DVD to see the film the studio has cut its nose to spite its face. It just doesn’t make sense that they would follow with these decisions.
Birds of Prey, was already going to be quite niche and a low box office draw (around or slightly below Suicide Squad). So, by giving it that audience chance but by not sacrificing too much from the story, that gives the film the best chance and also to help BUILD the characters to something else. If a new story requires an R rating, then go there, but make sure enough people come into the first film to allow for these creative decisions in the future. It is simple things that are being missed here.
Did the existence of Gotham City Sirens hurt the film?
Catwoman, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn are the big three villains in the Batman universe, were a lot of fans disappointed that we were not starting with this group and got what could be seen as a second choice female group instead? Possibly. It is indisputable that a Gotham City Sirens film would have been very strong, but I think we need a little time to build to that, so for now, we are not there just yet.
Catwoman is cast in the Matt Reeves Batman, so technically depending on if she is in the same universe as this Harley (we know how DC have multiple universes) then she could not be in this film, but that does leave someone who could at least make an appearance.
I think a link to that group with an appearance of Poison Ivy would have worked. They are close in the comics, and animated series and films, so the end of Birds of Prey would have been perfect to move Harley over there.
The Suicide Squad stigma
Like it or not, Suicide Squad failed and failed dramatically, yes Margot Robbie’s iteration of Harley was one of the best things in it, but it was also an R rated film and people have long memories when they want to. So, if people who did not like Suicide Squad see the same Harley featured, they may be cautious, especially the opening weekend to go and see the film. They may wait for word of mouth. While it will be great if Birds of Prey has legs, it needed that nice heavy front load so it could use it for extra marketing purposes.
They chose February because it is quiet, but Sonic the Hedgehog will now have it firmly in its sights. Speaking of February…
The release date
Anyone with a brain could tell you that films released over Oscars weekend tend to perform poorly, that weekend is all about catching up on what could win the awards, so why they choose to plan around that I will never know. Maybe to give themselves an extra week or two before something comes in to really challenge it?
This is where a lot of people have tried to compare Birds of Prey with Deadpool and they are way off the mark with it. Deadpool was a different beast and character-wise, Harley is no Deadpool, also and most importantly, Deadpool had spot-on marketing, something that was sorely missing throughout Birds of Preys leads up to release.
Will Birds of Prey make a profit?
Almost certainly, the month is young and there is not too much competition out there, add in the fact that the word of mouth and reviews are still fairly positive, I would go as far to assume that Birds of Prey will reach over $300 worldwide and will put it around Shazam, which seeing as it was handicapped by the R rating, the marketing and the title, isn’t the worst result.
A lot is being made of the opening weekend, but I think it will be okay in the long run and hopefully, if reports are to be true, we get to see more of Black Canary (Jurnee Smollet-Bell) and Huntress Mary Elizabeth Winstead) as their performances were strong.
It really isn’t the end of the world just yet for the film. Hopefully, it will keep chugging along with as little a drop next weekend as possible.
What do you think? Do you think that Birds of Prey has been dealt a bad hand by the studio? What do you think caused this poor box office result? Let me know.