The box-office expectations for 'Birds of Prey' were too high and the movie could still be a win for DC and Warner Bros.

birds of prey

  • “Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley
    Quinn)” opened below studio and analyst expectations over the
    weekend with $33 million.
  • But the movie has made $81 million globally and had a
    production budget of $84.5 million.
  • “Birds of Prey” is rated R and stars a cast of unknown
    characters (besides Harley Quinn), so expectations should better
    reflect that.
  • The movie if a spinoff of “Suicide Squad,” which has a “rotten”
    59% Rotten Tomatoes audience score and could have also held it back
    at the box office.
  • Theaters are now listing the movie under a new title of “Harley
    Quinn: Birds of Prey,” which Warner Bros. told Business Insider is
    only a theatrical listing and not an official title change.
  • Visit Business
    Insider’s homepage for more stories

After the latest DC Comics movie, “Birds of Prey (and the
Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn),”
opened with $33 million domestically over the weekend
, the
headlines at various outlets weren’t flattering.

The New York Times
said it “stumbled” at the box office.

said that the movie continued Warner Bros.’ “troubling
box-office slump.” (Business Insider used the word “disappoints.”)

Yes, the movie’s box-office debut was below expectations, even
Warner Bros.’ conservative projection of $45 million.
initially projected a $42 million bow, while

Box Office Mojo
anticipated $51 million. Those estimates
shifted as the numbers started pouring in.

“Birds of Prey”
cost $84.5 million to produce, according to Box
Office Mojo, significantly less than most big-budget superhero
movies. And while it made $33 million domestically, it grossed $81
million worldwide.

Expectations were too high for “Birds of Prey” and it shouldn’t
be written off right away. With good word of mouth, the movie still
has a chance to be a box-office hit.

‘Birds of Prey is a different kind of superhero movie

Superhero movies are consistently some of the best-performing
movies at the box office and DC itself has released two movies in
the last two years that have grossed $1 billion: “Aquaman” and

A better comparison is another DC Extended Universe movie,
“Shazam!,” which cost $100 million to make and opened with a
similarly modest $53.5 million. The headlines weren’t as harsh.
“Birds of Prey” is a different kind of superhero movie, a R-rated
one starring unknown characters (minus Margot Robbie’s Harley
Quinn, who appeared in “Suicide Squad”). 


“Joker” became the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time,
but the popular Batman foe is one of the most recognizable
pop-culture characters ever. Other superhero movies have excelled
at the box office without name recognition, such as “Guardians of
the Galaxy,” but that had a PG-13 rating and, more importantly, the
Marvel brand working in its favor.

The unrecognizable title combined with its R rating could have
held the movie back but dismissing it as a failure now is
premature. Other recent movies have opened in the same range as
“Birds of Prey” and went on to be make more than $100 million
domestically thanks to positive word of mouth, such as “Hustlers,”
“Ford v Ferrari,” and “Knives Out.” 

‘Suicide Squad’ could have tainted ‘Birds of Prey’ 

The only recognizable aspect of “Birds of Prey” for general
moviegoers was that it appeared to be a spinoff of “Suicide Squad.”
But while that movie opened with $133 million domestically, it
didn’t leave a great impression with audiences. 

“Suicide Squad” dropped to $43.5 million in its second weekend
in 2016, a whopping 67.5% decrease. It ultimately made $325 million
domestically, but was mostly supported by its opening weekend. It
has a “rotten” 59% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes while “Birds
of Prey” has an 81% score.

suicide squad

Comic-book journalist Oliver Sava tweeted
on Sunday, “I have talked to so many people who are writing [‘Birds
of Prey’] off because [‘Suicide Squad’] was such a massive piece of

The best hope for “Birds of Prey” is that positive word of mouth
spreads quickly for the movie and it can sustain strong legs over
the next few weeks. How it performs over the upcoming Presidents’
Day long weekend will be essential.

Some theaters chains, such as AMC and Regal, are now listing the
movie under a different title of “Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey.” A
Warner Bros. spokesperson told Business Insider that this is for
theatrical listings only and not an official title change.

Whether this helps audiences discover the movie remains to be
seen, but “Birds of Prey” still has a chance to turn its
opening-weekend narrative around. 

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The box-office expectations for 'Birds of Prey' were too high and the movie could still be a win for DC and Warner Bros.