It’s fair to say Birds of Prey’s box office during Week 1 was disappointing, but what’s not fair is anyone operating on the assumption that Cathy Yan’s R-rated Harley Quinn movie is a total disaster at this point. In fact, worldwide it’s already made over $85 million, which is allegedly already more than its initial budget (more on how box office works later). So, I’d just like to take a second to point out some of the headlines you may have been reading can’t have told the whole story yet.
The truth is, Birds of Prey had an opening weekend that was not as stellar as it was anticipated. It’s accurate to say opening weekend wasn’t even close to as stellar as conservative estimates expected the movie to be. It’s also likely that Sonic The Hedgehog will beat Birds of Prey at the box office this weekend.
However, it’s also the truth that if Birds of Prey has a reasonable second weekend both domestically and worldwide, it could be on its way to making a profit, particularly given its budget and P&A weren’t as high as some other superhero fare. (In fact, most superhero movies at DC, excepting Joker and the similarly budgeted Shazam! cost more to make.)
We can potentially talk about getting negative about the Birds of Prey IP in a few weeks, but for now hang on to your horses, ‘cause Lucy I’ve got some ‘splainin to do.
Here’s Why Birds Of Prey Headlines Have Been So Negative
The movie formerly titled Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn and now being called by some theaters Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey only made $32 million domestically last weekend. That is way lower than anyone expected. Initial estimates had the movie making in the $50 or even $60 million range, which would have put it in the same range as Shazam!, which made $53.5 million domestically when it opened.
Studio estimates from Warner Bros. were a little more conservative, listing the movie at a $45 million opening ahead of release. It fell short of that even. On the low end, estimates from people close to the production have said Birds of Prey needs to make $250 million worldwide to break even, per Variety. So, a $60 million opener domestically would certainly have put the movie in a sweeter spot.
Returning to that $250 million, this squares with the money spent to make the movie. Birds of Prey has been estimated to cost $85-$97 million to make. Then you have to factor in an unknown guesstimate of P&A money spent on advertising the movie through various forums. Then, movie studios get to keep about 50% of ticket sales domestically and even less than that percentage from many theaters overseas.
Next, factor in the effects on theaters and movie premieres due to the coronavirus and the fact the movie isn’t getting a release in China. In short, Birds of Prey wasn’t expected to get the same sort of traction as a Batman or Wonder Woman movie and its budget reflects that. Still, the numbers aren’t as clearly in the green as they could have been at this point in the movie’s release.
Don’t Blame Warner Bros. For That Emancipation Movie Title Change
Unlike Edge of Tomorrow, which should have just been called All You Need Is Kill and was later marketed as Live. Die. Repeat, Warner Bros. is reportedly not responsible for changing the title of Cathy Yan’s movie. Per The Wrap, theater chains including AMC, Regal and Cinemark banned together to make the change so that people would see Harley Quinn front and center.
In some ways, that’s not a bad move, as people aren’t super familiar with the gals making up the Birds of Prey and the title was so long it wasn’t showing up in full on the marquee. However, it certainly did not help with peoples' perceptions of the movie and may have contributed to the idea that things aren't going well with Birds of Prey. This is true even if the change actually had little to do with the studio -- that is, beyond the studio giving it that long name in the first place.
In short, theaters that were trying to fix their marquee title problems may have simply added to the drama, but as Roman Sionis says:
It’s not a party without a little drama, am I right?
I guess we'll have to wait and see if the title change helps or hurts more this weekend. Sonic The Hedgehog is expected to make somewhere over $40 million, so there's probably no way Birds of Prey will catch it, but the DC money could still put a tidy sum away in its own right.
When We’ll Know More About Birds Of Prey's Box Office
It’s very common that movies drop around 50% at the box office during Weekend 2. However, a fair amount of people actually turn out to see movies on Valentine’s Day weekend. If Birds of Prey has some legs, it might be on its way to breaking even or making a profit.
When Alita: Battle Angel did something similar at the box office around this time last year, people championed the movie and were really pushing for it to get to a point where a sequel might be possible. So, alls I’m saying is, maybe we should give Cathy Yan’s movie a little room to breathe before we start dumping all over it. It’s well reviewed after all, and it’s not not making money yet. Let's just slow our roll a little and wait and see how it pans out.
Speaking of which, I’d be happy to start talking about an Alita sequel any day now and I'm sure there are plenty of people who'd agree with me. For now, Birds of Prey is currently in theaters and will still be in theaters this Valentine’s Day weekend, as newcomers Sonic The Hedgehog, The Photograph, Fantasy Island and Downhill come out. It'll be an interesting race and we'll be sure to keep you abreast of the numbers as they roll in.