Birds of Prey had a disappointing opening weekend at the box office. While it managed to land in the top spot on the box office charts, the film underperformed by earning $33 million. Warner Bros. Pictures decided to try changing the film's title. Once named Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), the film is now appearing in theaters as Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey. Speaking to The Verge, a Warner Bros. representative said that the title change was one part of a “search expansion for ticket sites.” In other words, its a search engine optimization (SEO) play intended to make the movie easier for people to find online.
The film's original title, with its parentheses and it's biggest star at the end, wasn't a strong opening SEO gambit. Putting Harley Quinn front of the title makes a clearer statement of what the film is (Margot Robbie reprising her role from Suicide Squad and expanding the DC Extended Universe's character roster) and is more honest about how fans are probably thinking about and searching for the movie online ("Oh yeah, that new Harley Quinn movie").
Whether SEO is the real problem with the movie is a matter of some debate. Others point to poor marketing. Both problems have drawn comparisons last year's Dark Phoenix. That film also had a counterintuitive title that seemed to bury its biggest selling point (it's an X-Men movie) as well as a questionable marketing campaign.1comments
Either way, it's a fascinating new development in the way films are presented. It's no secret that SEO has touched the lives of anyone who uses the internet in some way, but to see a massive film studio second-guessing itself based on that metric feels like crossing some kind of threshold. Keep in mind that this is the same studio whose international branch recently announced it was partnering with an artificial intelligence firm to help choose its next projects.
Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), or Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey, if you prefer, is now playing in theaters. Other upcoming DC Films movies include Wonder Woman 1984 on June 5th, The Batman on June 25, 2021, The Suicide Squad on August 6, 2021, Black Adam on December 22, 2021, Shazam! 2 on April 1, 2022, Super Pets on May 20, 2022, The Flash on July 1, 2022, and Aquaman 2 on December 16, 2022.