“Birds of Prey” just got its box office wings clipped. And in pretty shocking fashion.
For weeks, many were predicting that Warner Bros.’ superhero film, “Birds of Prey,” which sees Margot Robbie don the makeup and play Harley Quinn for the first time since 2016’s “Suicide Squad,” would kick off February as a major box office force. Then, last week, the reviews were published and, for the most part, critics loved the film (it currently sits at 80% on Rotten Tomatoes). Buzz was seemingly building. And then the weekend hit. Now, it’s clear— “Birds of Prey” is not the blockbuster we were anticipating.
Debuting at the #1 spot at the domestic box office, WB’s “Birds of Prey” earned a mediocre…no, a downright terrible opening three-day gross of $33 million. This is far below analysts’ predictions that the film would earn more than $50 million, and even below the conservative estimates that WB had of $45 million. Honestly, even for a film that features a lesser-known DC hero (Harley Quinn) in an R-rated film with a mostly female cast, this type of box office showing is a franchise killer.
So, what went wrong? Well, unlike other recent bombs (“Dolittle” comes to mind), the reviews aren’t remotely bad. Audiences pretty much enjoyed it (‘B+’ on CinemaScore — same as “Suicide Squad” and “Joker”). And the marketing seemed to capture the manic, colorful, action-filled energy of the flick. But there seems to be a disconnect somewhere along the way.
No, we won’t entertain the idea that this is somehow proof that female-led superhero films aren’t box office gold because we’ve seen that disproved with films such as “Captain Marvel” and “Wonder Woman.” There’s just something about “Birds of Prey” that didn’t resonate enough with potential audiences.
The biggest problem might actually be the rating. No, the R-rating wasn’t unearned, and the film probably works a whole lot less if its PG-13. So, for this particular film, it’s a necessity. However, it’s clear by the humor, the action, and the characters, “Birds of Prey” is going after that teenage girl demo. Frankly, women above 30 might just find the film annoying. Unfortunately, those young women in the 13 to 17 age range, who come out in force for PG-13 horror films and superhero films, for example, just don’t have a chance to check out “Birds of Prey.”
Other than that, releasing in February is a tough sell for a lot of blockbusters. Of course, we’ve seen this not matter in the case of “Deadpool” (which is tonally similar to ‘Birds’), but regardless of the similarities, the Merc with a Mouth had the benefit of Marvel branding (even if it wasn’t Marvel Studios). In addition, the first “Deadpool” might actually have the best marketing campaign for a superhero film ever seen before.
That being said, none of these reasons really matter. The truth is, “Birds of Prey” is going to struggle to reach $100 million domestic, and even with a smaller budget (reportedly around $84 million), the film really should be looking at worldwide grosses around $400 million before people start to call it a success. With the first weekend worldwide gross of only $81 million, that’s going to be a really difficult milestone to reach.
On the bright side, as we look at the weeks to come, there isn’t a huge amount of competition for “Birds of Prey.” Next weekend, there’s the romance film “The Photograph” (not a blockbuster, by any stretch), “Fantasy Island” (PG-13 horror that looks to be a real stinker), and “Sonic the Hedgehog.” Out of those films, the latter is the only one that could make a dent in the overall theatrical business of ‘Birds,’ and depending on the reviews for ‘Sonic,’ the video game adaptation could be a huge box office turd. After that, there’s “Call of the Wild” (is anyone actually excited for this one?) and “Brahms: The Boy II.” So, if word of mouth is successful, then perhaps the drop for “Birds of Prey” might be minimal and the next few weeks could surprise us.
Needless to say, next weekend’s box office is going to attract a whole lot of attention. In addition to the aforementioned films, there’s also the possibility of a post-Oscars bump for some films, which could make for an interesting top 10.
Here’s the full domestic top 10 for February 7 to February 9:
- Birds of Prey – $33M (Debut)
- Bad Boys for Life – $12M ($166M Overall)
- 1917 – $9M ($132M)
- Dolittle – $6.7M ($64M)
- Jumanji: The Next Level – $5.5M ($298M)
- The Gentlemen – $4M ($27M)
- Gretel & Hansel – $3.5M ($11.5M)
- Knives Out – $2.35M ($159M)
- Little Women – $2.325M ($103M)
- Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker – $2.2M ($510M)