With Sunday’s Oscars marking the official end of awards season, prestige fare is taking center stage this weekend — meaning you could consider Birds of Prey, the standalone film for Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, a sort of candy-coated counterprogramming. Unfortunately, the contrast didn’t entirely pay off for Warner Bros., as the Suicide Squad follow-up/spin-off fell considerably short of expectations with a disappointing $33.25 million opening from 4,236 locations. So, how to explain the film’s underperformance?
On a surface level, Birds of Prey seemed to have everything going for it heading into the weekend – fan-beloved lead character (Harley Quinn), popular actress at the height of her career (Margot Robbie), high-flying Rotten Tomatoes score (81%) and status as the weekend’s sole new wide release. But when you peek beneath the hood, there are some apparent issues that could help account for its underwhelming debut.
You could start with the film’s R rating – rare for a comic book film aside from such recent harder-edged, tonally unique entries like Logan and 10-time Oscar nominee Joker, which saw director Todd Phillips bringing a Taxi Driver-style grittiness to the DC villain’s origin story. From a tonal perspective, Birds of Prey has much more in common with Fox’s two R-rated Deadpool movies, which boast a similarly flippant sense of humor and wildly charismatic antihero at their center. But unlike Deadpool, which benefitted greatly from both a years-long, fan-driven development process and a truly brilliant marketing campaign, Birds of Prey simply didn’t enjoy the same level of built-up audience demand and zeitgeist-capturing momentum.
It’s also difficult to overlook the film’s connection to Suicide Squad, the 2016 DCEU entry which, while hugely successful at the box office (it grossed $325.1 million in North America and $746.8 million worldwide), was considered a major disappointment by many fans. Though Robbie’s Harley Quinn was arguably the most warmly-received member of that ensemble – hence Birds of Prey being greenlit in the first place – there’s no doubt that Suicide Squad left a bad taste in the mouths of many DC devotees, making it entirely possible that any direct spinoff of that film was set up for failure.
As previously noted by Boxoffice’s Shawn Robbins, it could also be the case that the film’s title, Birds of Prey – which only embeds Harley Quinn’s name in the context of a long, cheeky subtitle – affected turnout among prospective audiences who simply weren’t paying all that much attention. Speaking of turnout, the opening weekend audience was almost evenly split between women and men — 51% vs. 49%, respectively — while 65% was over the age of 25 and 38% was over 35.
On the positive side of things, the budget for Birds of Prey was kept relatively low compared to your typical superhero extravaganza, with reports pegging it anywhere from $85 to $100 million. If the film can hold up reasonably well domestically – which is possible if you take into account its current 83% Audience Score on Rotten Tomatoes (vs. Suicide Squad’s 59%) – and pull in a solid haul overseas, it should finish within the margin of profitability when all is said and done — albeit not at the level the studio originally hoped for.
After three weekends at No. 1, Bad Boys for Life dropped to second place with an estimated $12 million in its fourth weekend, giving the breakout sequel a strong $166.32 million to date. It will be interesting to see whether the Sony release, which has enjoyed strong holds thus far, can manage to cross the $200 million mark by the end of its domestic run.
With hopes high for a Best Picture win at tonight’s Oscars, Universal’s 1917 continued strong in third place, dipping a scant 5% from last weekend’s Super Bowl-depleted haul with an estimated $9 million. The WWI drama now has a superb $132.54 million in North America to date and – particularly if it wins big at tonight’s ceremony – it seems primed continue holding well in the weeks ahead.
Fourth-place finisher Dolittle also enjoyed a sturdy hold with an estimated $6.66 million, giving the Universal release a total of $63.96 million through the end of its fourth weekend.
In fifth, Jumanji: The Next Level brought in an estimated $5.53 million (a drop of just 8%) for a total of $298.46 million through the end of its ninth weekend. Look for the Sony blockbuster to hit $300 million sometime this week.
The Gentlemen took in an estimated $4.18 million in sixth place, representing a drop of just 27% from last weekend, when the Super Bowl cut drastically into turnout at the multiplex – particularly among the largely older male audience that’s been showing up for the Guy Ritchie actioner. The total for the STX title now stands at $26.85 million through the end of its third weekend of release.
Last weekend’s horror newcomer Gretel & Hansel took seventh place with an estimated $3.51 million, a drop of 43% that brings the total for the United Artists release to $11.53 million.
The remainder of this weekend’s Top 10 was made up of longtime box office holdovers. Finishing in eighth place was six-time Oscar nominee and newly-minted $100 million grosser Little Women with an estimated $2.32 million, which brings the total for the acclaimed Sony title to $102.67 million through the end of its seventh weekend. In ninth was Lionsgate’s Knives Out with an estimated $2.35 million for a total of $158.94 million after 11 weeks, while tenth went to Disney’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which grossed an estimated $2.22 million for a total of $510.54 million total after eight weeks.
Birds of Prey opened to an estimated $48 million from 78 overseas markets, with the studio noting that coronavirus fears likely impacted audience turnout in Southeast Asia. That brings the film’s total worldwide debut gross to $81.3 million.
Dolittle brought in an estimated $18.8 million overseas this weekend, bringing its international haul to $94.7 million and its global tally to $158.7 million. The Universal title has yet to open in several major markets including Brazil, Russia, Japan and China.
Bad Boys for Life added to its international haul with an estimated $15.8 million from 63 markets, giving the Sony release a total of $170 million overseas and $336 million worldwide.
1917 grossed an estimated $15.4 million internationally for a total of $132.5 million overseas and $287.4 million globally.
Sunday’s Studio Weekend Estimates (Domestic)
FRI, FEB. 7 – SUN, FEB. 9
|1||Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)||$33,250,000||—||4,236||—||$7,849||$33,250,000||1||Warner Bros.|
|2||Bad Boys For Life||$12,005,000||-32%||3,530||-175||$3,401||$166,327,207||4||Sony / Columbia|
|5||Jumanji: The Next Level||$5,530,000||-8%||2,729||-216||$2,026||$298,460,411||9||Sony Pictures|
|6||The Gentlemen||$4,180,000||-25%||2,557||-118||$1,635||$26,851,981||3||STX Entertainment|
|7||Gretel & Hansel||$3,510,659||-43%||3,007||0||$1,167||$11,534,899||2||United Artists Releasing|
|9||Little Women||$2,325,000||-24%||1,805||-496||$1,288||$102,673,143||7||Sony Pictures|
|10||Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker||$2,226,000||-31%||1,746||-456||$1,275||$510,547,478||8||Disney|
|11||Just Mercy||$1,540,000||-29%||1,315||-492||$1,171||$33,390,112||7||Warner Bros.|
|12||The Turning||$1,540,000||-49%||1,848||-723||$833||$14,151,330||3||Universal Pictures|
|13||Jojo Rabbit||$1,534,000||14%||1,096||-77||$1,400||$30,280,950||17||Fox Searchlight|
|16||The Rhythm Section||$1,005,000||-63%||3,049||0||$330||$4,897,991||2||Paramount|
|1||Spies in Disguise||$963,000||-19%||800||-228||$1,204||$64,878,667||7||20th Century Fox|
|2||2020 Oscar-Nominated Short Films||$825,000||-29%||535||70||$1,542||$2,655,444||2||Magnolia Pictures ShortsTV w/ Magnolia Pictures|
|3||Ford v. Ferrari||$680,000||10%||743||-181||$915||$116,376,692||13||20th Century Fox|
|4||Once Upon a Time In Hollywood||$280,000||89%||583||-36||$480||$142,451,868||29||Sony Pictures|
|6||Like a Boss||$200,000||-60%||295||-370||$678||$21,963,873||5||Paramount Pictures|
|7||The Last Full Measure||$189,400||-59%||279||-338||$679||$2,509,325||3||Roadside Attractions|
|8||Weathering With You||$141,932||-62%||106||-118||$1,339||$7,556,201||4||GKIDS|
|9||Underwater||$124,000||-67%||226||-375||$549||$17,014,061||5||20th Century Fox|
|10||A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood||$95,000||-23%||155||-46||$613||$61,322,240||12||Sony Pictures|
|11||Pain and Glory||$60,616||6%||118||59||$514||$4,507,256||19||Sony Pictures Classics|
|1||The Assistant||$122,585||55%||25||21||$4,903||$225,721||2||Bleecker Street|
|3||Come to Daddy||$61,381||—||29||—||$2,117||$61,381||1||Saban Films|
|4||The Song Of Names||$56,710||-19%||78||-62||$727||$925,213||7||Sony Pictures Classics|
|5||Color Out Of Space||$55,362||-49%||54||-14||$1,025||$677,283||3||RLJE Films|
|7||The Traitor||$44,567||92%||17||14||$2,622||$79,088||2||Sony Pictures Classics|
|9||Maleficent: Mistress of Evil||$30,000||-14%||68||-16||$441||$113,921,999||17||Disney|
|10||Les Misérables (2020)||$29,316||-18%||38||-23||$771||$323,210||5||Amazon Studios|
|11||And Then We Danced||$14,078||—||2||—||$7,039||$14,078||1||Muisc Box Films|
|14||Cane River||$10,240||—||2||—||$5,120||$10,240||1||Oscilloscope Laboratories|