Weekend Box Office Forecast (Thursday Update): Will Birds of Prey Soar as 2020’s First Hit Comic Book Film?

Thursday Update: Despite increasing optimism among fans and online circles, we’ve updated our final weekend forecast below from $48 million to $42 million for Birds of Prey, and the range to $35 – 50 million (down from $40 – 60 million) in response to stalling social trends and pre-sales activity compared to similar R-rated titles with positive reviews.

It remains entirely possible that walk-up business could help the film still reach higher results this weekend, but as of now, our models are increasingly reliant upon them — which could be a challenging ask for an R-rated franchise film leaning heavily on fans and adults, especially with the dual holiday frame coming up next weekend.

Thursday night results will be reported Friday morning, followed by weekend estimates throughout the coming days.

Wednesday Report: Thanks to the success of films like Bad Boys for Life and 1917, year-to-date box office remains up over the same point last year with a 7.5 percent improvement through the end of last weekend.

This time of year is known for its dips thanks to the Super Bowl effect, but the industry is hoping 2020’s first high profile comic book film will kick-start the next upswing. With only one film (Birds of Prey) on the slate this weekend versus four this time last year, it will likely be another week or so before we see the full advantage kick in over Valentine’s and Presidents Days.

DC films have had a rocky road until recently, but Birds of Prey follows on the heels of the well-received Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Joker, and Shazam! — four films in the brand that have improved perception and goodwill among fans over the last two and a half years after the missteps of Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad, and Justice League.

Our pre-release tracking has consistently modeled an opening weekend between $40 million and $60 million for the Harley Quinn-led spin-off, which marks DC’s second foray into R-rated territory after last year’s Joker. Margot Robbie’s return to the role of the popular anti-heroine is a major plus for fans, while the mature nature of the film is furthering excitement among die-hards hoping for a “true to spirit” iteration of Harley.

More good news arrived in recent days with industry screenings — and now Rotten Tomatoes critics — awarding a big “thumbs up” to the film as it currently stands at 91 percent from 45 critics.

Objectively, though, the film has some hills to climb. The aforementioned Suicide Squad — while introducing Robbie’s popular turn as Harley — didn’t quite endear itself among audiences, scoring 27 percent with critics and 59 percent with audiences on RT. Regardless of how strong a follow-up to any franchise film may be from a quality standpoint, most sequels and prequels pay for the sins of their predecessors.

While it seems like a more well-known character such as Harley could drive an opening weekend higher than last year’s Shazam! ($53.5 million), it’s important to remember that film had a family-friendly premise and PG-13 rating. A fair comparison point here may instead be 2017’s John Wick: Chapter Two, a fellow R-rated pic that opened one weekend before Presidents Day with a strong $30.4 million.

Joker‘s recent $96.2 million debut in October might also be used as a measuring stick, but the disconnect between Birds of Prey and that film’s markedly different tone (not to mention having zero relation in story or characters) means BOP likely won’t capitalize on the goodwill it established.

That expectation bores out in pre-release interest metrics for Birds of Prey, which are notably strong among young women, but well below the usual footprints among males — typically the primary audience drivers for the comic book genre, with rare exception.

It’s that appeal to young women that could ultimately result in some over-performance this weekend if walk-up sales prove stronger than expected in the next 36 to 48 hours, though. Following what started with a marketing campaign met by various criticisms a few months ago though, Warner Bros. didn’t open pre-sales for the film until last week — an abnormally short window for such a large brand.

Ultimately, the film’s rumored budget of around $95 to 100 million means it doesn’t need to open anywhere near Suicide Squad‘s $133.7 million weekend back in August 2016 to be considered profitable or a hit. That’s a key perspective to maintain here.

In fact, the positive reviews coming to light may spell healthy staying power ahead with a double holiday coming up in its second frame next week. There won’t be a significant amount of competition for the same audience until February 28’s The Invisible Man, so the runway certainly exists for a less front-loaded run than some genre films manage to generate.

In that respect, Joker could be a more apt comparison as it went on to more than triple its opening weekend at the domestic box office on the back of incredible word of mouth. Based on the current outlook, a similar kind of longevity may be the more reasonable goalpost for Birds of Prey if audiences agree with the critics. In the end, a global run around $275 million or more will likely lead to a financial winner for the studio.

Meanwhile, it’s a safe bet that Oscar-nominated films will see strong holds this weekend thanks to the award show coming up on Sunday. Family films and male-driven pics will also enjoy minimal losses from last weekend as it was deflated by the big game on Sunday. The exception(s), on a minor level, may be Bad Boys for Life and 1917 — both of which will lose IMAX and various premium screens to Birds of Prey.

Opening Weekend Range

  • Birds of Prey ($35 – 50 million)

Top 10 vs. Last Year

Boxoffice projects this weekend’s top ten films will decline approximately 9 to 14 percent from the same post-Super Bowl weekend last year when The LEGO Movie 2What Men WantCold Pursuit, and The Prodigy opened as part of a $95.03 million top ten aggregate.

Weekend Forecast

Film Distributor 3-Day Weekend Forecast Projected Domestic Total through Sunday, February 9 % Change from Last Wknd
Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) Warner Bros. $42,000,000 $42,000,000 NEW
Bad Boys for Life Sony / Columbia $11,100,000 $165,300,000 -37%
1917 Universal $7,200,000 $129,900,000 -24%
Dolittle Universal $5,700,000 $62,900,000 -25%
Jumanji: The Next Level Sony / Columbia $4,800,000 $297,600,000 -20%
The Gentlemen STX $3,900,000 $26,100,000 -30%
Gretel and Hansel United Artists Releasing $3,300,000 $11,300,000 -46%
Little Women (2019) Sony / Columbia $2,100,000 $102,300,000 -32%
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Disney / Lucasfilm $2,000,000 $510,300,000 -38%
Knives Out Lionsgate $1,900,000 $158,400,000 -26%

Forecasts subject to change as location counts are finalized before Friday

The chart above excludes releases and potential expansions from limited and platform films

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