Birds Of Prey's Opening Weekend Is Seriously Underperforming, But Why?

Margot Robbie Harley Quinn close-up Birds of Prey

Well, that was a quick drop. Birds of Prey seemed to have a solid first night in theaters, looking like it was on track for a $50-$55 million opening weekend. The studio was projecting something around $45 million. But now, after Friday's disappointing tally, the domestic opening numbers have been revised down to around $34 million. That'll still be enough to give it #1 on the weekend box office chart -- and we'll have ours up tomorrow -- but oof. That's not what was wanted or expected.

So now everyone and their crazy cousin is out sharing What Went Wrong. With Birds of Prey, it could've just as easily been What Went Right, since everything seemed to be on a decent track for an opening close to $50M. It's possible that when the official numbers roll in on Monday the estimates will be up again and closer to what the studio expected all along.

When it comes to Birds of Prey, you can't blame critics or fans, because both gave the movie good scores -- unlike with Suicide Squad. Birds of Prey is 82% fresh on RT with an 84% audience score. It has a B+ CinemaScore, which isn't great but it's the same as Suicide Squad, where Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn made her debut, and Justice League -- plus also DC's Joker. It's better than the B of DC's Batman v Superman but worse than Aquaman and Man of Steel's A- or both Shazam! and Wonder Woman's A.

So let's join the What Went Wrong game.

First of all, the title probably didn't help. The official name is Birds Of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn). It's a mouthful! It got Harley's name in there, but at the very end. If this movie is centered around Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn, maybe better to put that up front as a selling point. Instead, everyone just calls the movie Birds of Prey. But who are the Birds of Prey?

Second, Birds of Prey is rated R. Suicide Squad, which gave Margot Robbie's Harley her big showcase, was rated PG-13. As Deadline noted, a lot of young Harley fans -- who loved the animated series and Suicide Squad -- may have been shut out by that rating. Suicide Squad had a much larger production budget at $175M (vs around $85M for Birds of Prey) but its August 2016 opening was also much bigger at $133,682,248. Joker is also rated R, and had a $96,202,337 opening in October 2019, which was much higher than many expected. In Joker's case, there was a lot of buzz and controversy -- and whatever you think about the controversy, it helped the movie sell tickets.

People are also comparing Birds of Prey to Deadpool, which opened to $132,434,639 in February 2016. It may seem like apples to oranges, but they are both R-rated comic book movies opening in February.

I do think Birds of Prey had a marketing problem, in that it wasn't getting much buzz before the good reviews started rolling in just a few days ago. I feel like DC/Warner Bros. could've done a better job selling the other Birds of Prey beyond Harley in promos, or just made it a Harley Quinn movie full-stop.

My hope is that fans decide to see Birds of Prey next weekend or that the movie legs out. Sonic the Hedgehog is coming next weekend, and there should be a curiosity factor to that, but I think there's still room in the market for Harley.

Of course, the domestic box office is one small drop in the box office pond. With superhero and action movies, the real money is made overseas. It's possible Birds of Prey will end with a lower-than-expected domestic total -- although we don't know that yet -- but clean up at the international box office.

Have you seen Birds of Prey yet? If so, what did you think? If not, do plan to see it at some point?

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Gina Carbone

Gina grew up in Massachusetts and California in her own version of The Parent Trap. She went to three different middle schools, four high schools, and three universities -- including half a year in Perth, Western Australia. She currently lives in a small town in Maine, the kind Stephen King regularly sets terrible things in, so this may be the last you hear from her.