When Birds of Prey opened below expectations in its first weekend, the comic book flick starring Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn was already being called a “flop." In comparison to the rest of DCEU’s slate, it does sit at the bottom in box office earnings. However, that’s without looking at the bigger picture. Birds of Prey made 2.4 times its budget back and, while it didn’t pull the monumental numbers of Joker or Avengers: Endgame, “flop” or “failure” are too strong of words.
Plus, the director behind Birds of Prey, Cathy Yan, had only made one small-budget indie film prior to bringing Harley Quinn and her femme fatales to the big screen. Birds of Prey is also R-rated, which limits the audience another movie like Wonder Woman had at its disposal at PG-13. So there’s a lot of factors to consider here, and Yan is offering her take on the initial headlines of the performance of her movie:
I know that the studio had really high expectations for the movie — as we all did. There were also undo expectations on a female-led movie, and what I was most disappointed in was this idea that perhaps it proved that we weren’t ready for this yet. That was an extra burden that, as a woman-of-color director, I already had on me anyway. So, yes, I think there were certainly different ways you could interpret the success or lack of success of the movie, and everyone has a right to do that. But, I definitely do feel that everyone was pretty quick to jump on a certain angle.
Birds of Prey was made on a production budget of $82 million – which is much lower than your typical DCEU title. So while its $201.8 million haul isn’t necessarily a very impressive box office number, it shouldn’t classify Birds of Prey as bottom of the barrel. As Cathy Yan told THR, it’s unfair to call a movie like Birds of Prey unmarketable or something an audience isn’t ready for based on these numbers.
Cathy Yan’s film is still a sizable win for a female filmmaker of color who had never been at the center of a high-profile comic book project like this before. When Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman broke box office records, she was a more established filmmaker with the Oscar-winning Monster under her belt, and she had a much more well-known hero at the center. Gal Gadot had been introduced in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, which was a bigger hit as a set-up film than Suicide Squad was for Harley Quinn. And it came just ahead of the highly-anticipated Justice League, which arrived later that year.
Birds of Prey recently hit VOD early to follow in the footsteps of Universal’s quick decision to release its new movies The Hunt, Emma, Invisible Man and Trolls World Tour. Since then, Birds of Prey has been followed by Sonic the Hedgehog, Onward, Bad Boys For Life and others hitting digital platforms early.
You can check out Birds of Prey from the comfort of your home right now.