Warner Bros’ ‘Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)’ stole the #1 spot for the weekend, but it came in well under the $50+ million it was expected to make. Despite great reviews — 82% on Rotten Tomatoes — and exit scores — 4 stars out of 5 for PostTrak, B+ for CinemaScore (equal to ‘Joker’) — audiences just did not flock to see it. The film’s opening weekend tally is $33.2M. Not terrible, but significantly lower than WB had hoped. Luckily, as far as comic book movies go, ‘Birds of Prey’ had a fairly low budget of $97M. This is the lowest DC Movie opening since 2010’s ‘Jonah Hex’ which had a disastrous $5.3M opening.
Some are blaming the R-rating, but ‘Joker’ made over $1 billion, and Fox’s ‘Deadpool’ movies and ‘Logan’ also did well despite the restrictive rating. However, in this case, the young female audience that are fans of Harley Quinn (possibly from cartoons and toys) were banished and the majority of the audience that turned out were the typical older males that go see every comic book movie. The R-rating for ‘Birds of Prey’ could have been avoided, as it seems to have mostly been given due to cursing. There is no gore and the violence is cartoonish. There is a tiny bit of drug use that could have easily been snipped.
Another more plausible explanation for ‘Birds of Prey’s underwhelming opening is the fact that this is technically a spin-off, and those just typically don’t do as well as the core films from which they are spun — ‘Hobbs & Shaw’, ‘Fantastic Beasts’, etc.
‘Birds of Prey’, like it or not, is a “spin-off” from ‘Suicide Squad‘, a terrible movie that made a decent amount of money. Its opening weekend haul was $133.6M. It wound up making $746.8M worldwide. And Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn was the best part, so giving her her own movie wasn’t a bad move. And ‘Birds of Prey’ is actually a GOOD movie, but it carries the stank of ‘Suicide Squad’ which, despite making a good amount of money, is considered an awful movie, and that turned potential ‘Birds of Prey’ viewers off.
I’m going to pull back the curtain a bit. After ‘Birds of Prey’ was screened for critics, there was an embargo on reviews until Wednesday, but critics were allowed to discuss it on Twitter and other social media, so they did and they GUSHED over it. The buzz was over-the-top positive. It sounded too good to be true, and many — myself included (I didn’t get to see it in advance) — became very skeptical that these praises were legit.
This has happened before when it comes to Warner Brothers, specifically before the release of ‘Batman V Superman‘. Folks on Twitter were going bananas, calling it the absolute best comic book movie of all time and declaring that Marvel was dead. Long live DC! And if anyone said anything negative about it, they were personally attacked. I know, because it happened to me. It also happened to other writers for this website. We were accused of being on Disney’s payroll, as if we were being bribed to slam ‘BvS’ and praise the Marvel movies. (If I was on Disney’s payroll, I’m pretty sure I’d have a nicer apartment. Or at least I wouldn’t have to pay for Disney+.)
Then ‘Batman V Superman’ came out and not only was it not the best superhero movie of all time; it was literally one of the worst movies of any kind of all time. And that was the across-the-board consensus. It’s not like I was the only person who hated it. There is NO way that anyone watched that and seriously thought it was the best comic book movie of all time. So how does that explain those rapturous pre-release tweets? Well, Warner Brothers has been flat-out caught paying sites to write positive reviews of some of their video games. So I’m not saying that WB paid people to gush about ‘BvS’ online (and attack naysayers), but I’m not NOT saying they did.
So when early online response to ‘Birds of Prey’ seemed too good to be true, it felt as though WB was back to its old tricks. And whether people remember the ‘BvS’ shenanigans or not, the ones I have spoken to still felt that these early raves were BS. Guards were up. It seems that people are taking a wait and see attitude with this film, but the fact that most people that see it enjoy it could help ‘Birds of Prey’ hold steady in the coming weeks. But possibly not, as sometimes is a movie opens poorly, despite the quality, it’s curtains.
Of course, not everyone’s going to like it. But I can definitely say I enjoyed ‘Birds of Prey’ a LOT more than I did ‘Aquaman’, and that was a record-breaker.
It now looks as though ‘Birds of Prey’ will barely pass the $100M mark at the domestic box office. And unfortunately, the foreign market won’t salvage this picture. As I mentioned last week, the threat of the coronavirus is hampering the box office in Asia. That may not be THE reason it isn’t doing well overseas, but regardless, it isn’t. It only accumulated $48M outside of the U.S. and Canada.
- Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) – $33.8M
- Bad Boys For Life (Sony) – $ 11.8M
- 1917 (Amblin/Universal) – $8.9M
- Dolittle (Universal) – $6.5M
- Jumanji: The Next Level (Sony) – $5.5M
Will ‘Birds of Prey’ continue to hover at #1 next weekend, or will ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ zip past? We’ll have to wait and see. Also opening is Blumhouse’s new horror movie ‘Fantasy Island’ based on the non-horror 70s TV series. Check back to see who winds up on top!