‘Birds of Prey’ gets a new title after the film lowkey flopped in its opening weekend

Oscars 2020 Arrivals

Let’s go back to the beginning. Suicide Squad was an enormously troubled and wasteful production, and after primary filming was over and they began piecing together the film, they realized that Jared Leto’s Joker needed to be severely edited out of the film, and that Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn was the most interesting character. They went back and did reshoots and added more stuff for Harley Quinn and the end result was that Leto’s Joker was barely there, and Suicide Squad looked mostly like a star vehicle for Margot.

Warner Bros took note and they greenlighted a stand-alone Harley Quinn movie, with Margot producing. They would have given her anything, and Margot had a HUGE say in every part of Birds of Prey. She wanted a female director. She wanted the costumes to be comfortable and realistic. She wanted the film to center around a group of badass women. And God bless her, Margot got it all and she really tried. She did what so many women should do when they get some power: she tried to bring other women up alongside her. The result was sucky crybaby incels talking about how Birds of Prey was “cancelled” because it was too feminist and they wanted Harley to look sexier. And so this happened:

After the commercial successes of “Wonder Woman,” “Aquaman” and “Joker,” Warner Bros. had been on a hot streak with its DC Universe. Its latest comic-book offering, “Birds of Prey,” seemed to have all the ingredients necessary to continue that trend in the studio’s attempt to fashion an alternative to Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe.

But despite a solid reception, the R-rated superhero adventure — which puts the spotlight on Margot Robbie’s crazed baddie Harley Quinn from 2016’s “Suicide Squad” — stumbled out of the gate, debuting to $33 million in North America. Those disappointing ticket sales were still enough to place first on domestic box office charts, though well behind Warner Bros.’ already cautiously low estimates of $45 million. “Birds of Prey” failed to make up much ground at the international box office, where it launched with $48 million, bringing its global haul to $81 million.

Birds of Prey” cost a reported $82 million to produce, with executives at rival studios putting that number as closer to $100 million (due to elaborate sets and CGI), and estimating the film needs to make around $100 million domestically and $300 million globally to break even. Sources close to the production say the breakeven number is closer to $250 million. Hitting those marks could prove difficult overseas, since fears of coronavirus have impacted moviegoing in Asia. However, its R-rating meant the film wasn’t going to open in China in the first place.

[From Variety]

Considering Warner Bros has been having issues for years with bloated budgets and expensive reshoots, the fact that Margot-the-producer delivered Birds of Prey to the studio under $100 million in production costs is remarkable, and people should recognize it as such. Still, the reason why people are using such sepulchral language around the box office is because most professionals had Birds of Prey tracking at a $50-60 million opening weekend domestically. It really didn’t meet those expectations, but still… it was #1 and it’s not a total f–king flop. And so Warner Bros decided they had one answer to make this film popular: put Harley Quinn’s name in the friggin’ title.

Birds of Prey‘s first weekend wasn’t exactly Fantabulous at the box office. The DC film opened below expectations with just $33 million domestically, having been projected to earn $50-55 million in its opening weekend. There are a few possible reasons for this: Perhaps the film’s R rating shut out younger viewers, or maybe everyone just wanted to stay home and watch the Oscars this past weekend.

But it seems distributor Warner Bros. has a theory of its own: Potential viewers must not be aware that Birds of Prey focuses on Margot Robbie‘s Harley Quinn. Well, the studio has now taken steps to make that loud and clear…or rather, louder and clearer. Though the film’s official title is Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), take a look at the listings for your local multiplex and you’ll see something slightly different: Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey. AMC, Regal, and Cinemark‘s websites all currently display this title for the film.

[From EW]

Honestly, it’s dumb… but also, Warner Bros isn’t totally wrong. The title WAS a problem and it’s something that should have been fixed months before the film came out. I’m not sure Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey is the answer, but it’s what we’ve got now. I also think the film might have suffered a bit because the promotion didn’t seem as… saturated as it should have been, especially for a big comic-book movie? They basically only did one major premiere (in London) and I think Margot only did one magazine cover, with the other women. There needed to be more promotion.

Oscars 2020 Arrivals

Photos courtesy of Birds of Prey/Warner Bros.

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39 Responses to “‘Birds of Prey’ gets a new title after the film lowkey flopped in its opening weekend”

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  1. Becks1 says:

    LOL, I remember saying months ago when there was a post about this movie (it may have been one of the daily links) – that I watched the preview and was expecting to see a movie about peregrine falcons or something. I liked Suicide Squad a lot but don’t follow the actual comic books at all.

    Anyway, sounds like this movie had a disappointing start but isn’t a total flop, I guess we’ll see how it does in the long run.

    As an aside – I remember reading somewhere that Disney regretted the title Princess and the Frog, because they think it drove down ticket sales because boys didn’t want to see another Princess movie (hence Tangled, Frozen, etc.) that makes me sad bc my boys love that movie and its the last hand-drawn full length feature film. I wish Disney would do another one.

    • BANANIE says:

      The Princess & The Frog is one of my favorites! It’s a beautiful story and it’s got great characters. The part with the lightning bug and Evangeline the star made me cry.

      • OriginalRose says:

        Meee tooo, the Evangeline star gets me every time, balling

      • Mel M says:

        I too LOVE The Princess and the Frog and so do my kids.The songs are really good too and whenever the part comes on with Ray turning into the star they run around yelling “RAY!!” So excited, it’s awesome.

    • Abby says:

      Aw! I nearly named my daughter Evangeline after I was inspired by that movie. My last name is too long! That movie is so lovely. It’s a bit scary in parts for my kids yet but I think they’ll love it when they’re a little older.

    • Noely says:

      I finally got to watch Princess and the Frog a few years ago. It was beautiful.

      I miss hand drawn movies so much. Born in the 90s, I grew up with both hand drawn and 3D animated shows/movies. I like 3D ones as well. As I got older, I saw the classic kids’ cartoons I used to watch on weekend morning all getting 3D remakes and I couldn’t help but feel a little sad. I mean, 3D animation is art too and people work hard on it and I love good animated movies but I wish there was more room for hand drawn movies in this age.

  2. Leriel says:

    I think that R was a main problem. Movie doesn’t need it, they could easily replaced all swearing with less emotional words and movie doesn’t have that much graphic violence for R. Movie’s main category is teen girls and they can’t watch it because of R (officially). And, of course, China market, even with coronarovirus still could’ve brought some money.

    • Michael says:

      I think you are right. The “R” rating meant parents would have to take their children and having watching parties of young girls are impractical. They should have studied how Wonder Woman was put together.

  3. Valiantly Varnished says:

    Warner Bros. barely promoted this film. Not in the way other comic book films have been promoted. And yes – Harley Quinn’s name should have been in the title but that wasn’t the main issue. The issue was that this film doesn’t seem to have been given decent PR support.

    • Lucy says:

      Do you think this might have been a petty way of getting back at Margot for outshining Jared Leto/trying and actually succeeding to take control and produce a movie on her own terms?

    • Michael says:

      If they spent more money then the movie would have to do even better than the original projections to break even. Maybe they thought it was not a box office winner and cut their losses.

  4. H says:

    I agree with Valiantly Varnished. I barely saw any promotion for Birds of Prey. Unless you are a hard core geek like me, it probably wasn’t on your radar. Plus with China on lockdown, who would risk going to the cinema? Warner Brothers lost millions because of that.

    As for fanboys, most love Harley Quinn. It’s rather revolting and sexualized. While they admire Wonder Woman, their devotion to Harley reaches untold proportions, so I’m a bit surprised they aren’t flocking to this movie.

    Myself, I forgot it came out. I’ve never been a Harley fan but Margot rocked her in Suicide Squad. Movie I’m jammed about? Wonder Woman 1984. Is it June yet?

  5. Izzy says:

    I love Margot but saw the movie because my boyfriend wanted to see it and it was just plain awful. It was a bloated mess and boring.

    • Kelly says:

      Same. I hated it. I wanted to like it, but it was like an action-packed 2 hour Avril Lavigne music video. Harley Quinn is an amazing supporting character but as lead she gets tiresome very quickly.

    • MissM says:

      Agreed. I watched it because i like Margot but it was God awful. The trailer looked terrible too, a lot of my friends who love the comics are planning to wait until it comes to rent at Redbox or Prime.
      I can’t stand this trend of blaming these female led movies on Comic Book Bros. If a movie sucks then the box office reflects that. Wonder Woman was a huge hit and I’m sure the sequel will be as well because it was actually a good movie. No one sat it out because it was a female led and directed film.

    • SKF says:

      I disagree, I thought it was fun, easy to watch and understand, and had great performances all round.

  6. Lwt00 says:

    It didn’t help that the trailer was a mess. Unfortunately so was the film, but I can’t believe no one’s talking about the worst element: Ewan McGregor’s performance. My god, it was awful.

  7. Summergirl says:

    I took my 10-year-old son to see this movie yesterday and we loved it. (Well, I liked it and he loved it.) He just loves Harley Quinn, so even though I was worried it would be totally inappropriate, I gave in. The movie is rated 14A in Canada, where we live. I have no interest in Harley Quinn whatsoever and never saw Suicide Squad, and was dreading seeing the movie. But it was so much fun! I totally disagree with the poster who said it was bloated–I thought it was quite efficient at one hour and 40 minutes. I wasn’t bored for one second. And to be clear, I hate superhero movies and this isn’t my kind of movie at all. I mean, it’s supposed to be campy! Isn’t that the point? Maybe I liked it because I had such low expectations?

  8. sassbr says:

    I have zero idea what you mean about lack of marketing. The promos for this were literally in everything I streamed this month. There was promotional tie-in product everywhere. Quite frankly, I feel the movie did poorly because they had zero idea who to market to. The tie-in promotional material was drug store makeup and pink hair die. If tween girls wanted to see this movie, they couldn’t because they either couldn’t get in to an R-rated flick or their parents didn’t want to see it. And then of course, Unfortunately, it’s been proven time and time again that men don’t come out to support female-driven action movies. They should have cut the rating to PG-13 and produce more varied trailers for the movie, some with Harley Quinn and then some featuring the male villains, including Chris Messina’s serial killer character.

    But honestly, I had no interest in seeing this movie because I was already sick of the Harley Quinn voice because of how many times I sat through the promos on streaming TV. There’s only so much I can listen to that. It sounds like she doubled it up from Suicide Squad.

  9. lucy2 says:

    Better marketing and a PG13 would have helped. Also, isn’t January/February usually a weak time for movies anyway?

    I’d like to see this, but haven’t had time this week, so hopefully it sticks around a bit. I HATED Suicide Squad, but I like Margot, and want to support a female driven film.

    But watch – Margot & Co. will get a lot more flack for this not doing well than RDJ and Dolittle will. And that’s a BAD flop.

    • Leriel says:

      Yes, this, you’re right! Dudebros are taking over youtube to make their angry videos about BOP flopping and how it’s feminism fault and Margot is dumb etc etc, but Downey and Dolittle – well thr and other sources reported it and that’s almost all. And Dolittle is a mess and BOP are at least campy and funny.

  10. Julie says:

    I saw the movie this past weekend with little to no expectations (since DC has such a shoddy history with ruining their own material). The film surprised me in a good way! You get such a strong tonal change in how the women are written, shot, and clothed it’s absolutely jarring. It’s going to sound so corny, and it even surprised me, but as a woman those little changes made the film easier for me to be immersed in the plot.

    Some of the writing needed more development; the actors are doing their best with the material they’re given but the characters do suffer. Specifically Ewan (ick) seemed to be attempting an interesting angle to his villain character. Margot is the star of this film, no cap. And “Harley’s” personality/choices are consistent with her character, especially her ending!

    So overall, not a bad film. Fun, heavy-handed in its messaging, but full of talent. Did it live up to its potential? No, but honestly it’s one of the better films DC has put forward.

    • Sankay says:

      I saw it explicitly to support a female starring movie. HQ is not a character I’m interested in at all but I went and handed over my $s. It wasn’t great but I’ve seen worse male driven movies. The last big fight scene was good.

  11. Chimney says:

    To the people who are still on the fence about seeing this, go! I saw it yesterday ($5 Tuesdays yay!) and it was so much fun. Just a really fun colorful and full on girly movie, it was super entertaining. Jared Leto is not in it at all which was a huge plus imo

  12. LaUnicaAngelina says:

    Honestly, Birds of Prey sounds like a 1980s miniseries name to me. Every time I heard it, I had no idea what it was until I read the context or saw a photo of Margot as HQ. Only this week do I now recall it when I hear or read the name.

  13. Aimee says:

    I thought it got mostly good reviews? I am taking my 13 yr old daughter to see it this weekend.

  14. Catting says:

    I totally support what she’s doing! Never heard of this movie BEFORE the articles about it “flopping” though, and that’s completely on WB.

    As an aside, I live in LA and we work with a lot of industry-adjunct types. No super juicy gossip, but have heard such lovely things about Margot being “real” and kind.

  15. The Recluse says:

    Saw it yesterday. R-rated for good reason. It is violent too.
    I enjoyed it, but I wished for a little more interaction between our heroines and a little less action. It will definitely find its audience on cable, etc.
    Huntress aka the Crossbow Killer name running gag was funny.
    And I liked Harley’s voiceover commentary.

  16. Queen Meghan’s Hand says:

    When the movie was announced I was excited to see it because of how Robbie’s HQ was the breakout star of Suicide Squad and I really like Journee Smollet-Bell as an actress. But then time passed, I became less excited and the poster and mobile ad marketing didn’t compel me to watch a trailer. I didn’t learn ROSIE PEREZ was in the film until Kaiser covered the cast’s magazine cover. I also assumed it was PG-13. Now after reading the reviews of the film in these comments, I’ll give it a shot for Smollet-Bell.

    I think the film’s under-performance was mix of things in and out of producers and the studio’s control. I think a better targeted marketing strategy would have helped. I thought this film’s core-audience was tweens but it was rated R. Robbie appeared to spend a lot of press contact time campaigning for Bombshell and less time promoting Birds of Prey. The awards season was abbreviated this year so maybe that could a reason why?
    Also: I think Robbie’s popularity as an actress and competency as a producer is a bit overestimated. (Posts about her don’t comment highly. I know celebitches are a particular audience but still.). Studios and producers need to re-examine how to market franchise films cost-effectively in this post-movie star era.

  17. Adr1s says:

    It’s fun! It’s like deadpool but pink and with glitter!! DC fanboys are such lame crybabies

  18. Grant says:

    I saw it this past weekend. It was fantastic. It feels like this is the role Margot Robbie was born to play, you can tell Ewan McGregor is having the time of his life, Chris Messina is deliciously scary, and each of the “Birds” is a delight. Not to mention, the fight scenes are INCREDIBLE. The whole thing reminded me of Deadpool mixed with John Wick. It’s unfortunate that this didn’t make a lot of money because, for me, it’s up there with Wonder Woman in terms of the best DC output.

  19. enike says:

    I didnt see the movie, but the posters are everywhere and tbh I was amazed how harsh Margot looked. She is so beautiful, but here she looks just scary and not in a good way, imho
    So after I read something about the movie, I just watched the trailer, and I dont know if its the excessive harsh make-up or the bad unflattering lighting, but Margot´s face looks very harsh

    Of course, its a shallow thing to say and I dont know how it affected or not the movie goers.

    I looked up also the Suicide squad trailer, and Margot looked a lot better, there was significant make-up but not a scary clown territory
    (I am not an incel wanting her to be more sexy btw 🙂 )
    just to stay how she looked in the Suicide squad

  20. Marigold says:

    I’m a huge comics fan, and I always liked the Harley Quinn story. I have no intention of seeing this movie in the theatre because the trailer looks utterly horrible. It’s not the title. It’s a bad movie, and it’s so bad they couldn’t even make the trailer look good.

    I mean, like I said, I’m a comics fan, so I’ll stream it later, but nope, nope, nope.

  21. Suzy Lee says:

    Honestly, these big studios complaining about this movie “only” making $81 millions globally for its debut is indecent. They won’t lose money on this one and they’ll still make a profit. The industry has gone insane.

  22. Tpoe says:

    As other have said, there was almost no promotion for this movie, and the coronavirus scare keeping people out of theaters in South East Asia certainly didn’t help. But I also I think they over estimated the appeal of a Harley Quinn led movie. I mean I like Harley Quinn well enough, but I’ve never bought a Harley Quinn comic book. She is a supporting character. Being a bright spot in an otherwise terrible movie (Suicide Squad) doesn’t mean that everyone is dying to see you get your own movie. I’m not saying that there is no room in the world for a Harley Quinn driven movie, just that it was never going to be as big of a hit as the studio maybe thought it would be.

    Anyway now that’s in theaters and reviews are, I guess middling, I doubt people will suddenly decide to go see it.

  23. GamerGirl says:

    The advertising has not been great. It doesn’t represent the movie well, and the title implies it’s about the Birds of Prey — when it’s really a Harley movie that happens to have some of the BoP in it as supporting cast. That said, hubby and I went opening weekend and loved it. I hope people give it a chance.

  24. sara says:

    tbh this movie had no business being rated R. That probably hurt it a lot more than the name.