Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) opened over the weekend to $33 million, marking the lowest opening for any film set in the DC Extended Universe and the lowest start for any DC film since Jonah Hex in 2010. According to Exhibitor Relations box office analyst Jeff Bock, the R-rated Birds of Prey is a "niche comic book movie" whose failings began with its title: not naming the Cathy Yan-directed film Harley Quinn after its starring character (portrayed by returning Suicide Squad star Margot Robbie) was a "huge misfire" for Warner Bros., who months earlier scored a billion-plus box office with the R-rated Joker.
"They took a swing, and they missed," Bock told Variety. "It wasn’t for the movie masses, it was a niche comic book movie. Warner Bros. keeps having to learn these lessons."
Birds of Prey has so far earned $81 million globally on a reported $82 million budget. This figure is contested by other studio executives, who argue the film's sets and CGI upped the cost to $100 million. Sources at rival studios estimate Birds of Prey will at least break even if it scores roughly $100 million domestically and $300 million globally, while sources close to the film argue the breakeven number is closer to $250 million, according to Variety.
The film's opening came in lower than 2011's Green Lantern, which took in $53 million in its opening weekend before finishing its theatrical run with $219 million globally. That film bombing saw Warner Bros. lose at least $75 million on the Ryan Reynolds-led superhero movie that cost a reported $200 million to make.
Birds of Prey teams Harley with fellow DC Comics heroines Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), characters largely unfamiliar to moviegoers who are not DC Comics readers. While Birds of Prey puts Harley front-and-center, Bock argued Warner Bros. would have benefited had they emphasized her name in the film's title.
"The first mistake is not focusing on her," he said. "She has an IP, so Warner Bros. not naming it Harley Quinn was a huge misfire."
Robbie's take on the already fan-favorite Harley Quinn proved to be the breakout character of Suicide Squad, the first film to feature Harley in live-action.
Harley's girl gang romp with Quentin Tarantino-like violence won't be in direct competition with the family-friendly Sonic the Hedgehog movie, out Feb. 14, but Birds of Prey could suffer from a "crowded theatrical marketplace."0comments
"In the coming days and this weekend, it will be joined by new films that offer little in terms of direct competition, in what will be admittedly be a very crowded theatrical marketplace," added Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst at Comscore. "That will be the true test."
Birds of Prey is now playing.