February 20, 2020

Here's Why 'Birds of Prey' Wasn't a Failure

Birds of Prey might be lagging at the box office, but the bigger picture of several DC/Warner Bros. releases tells a different story.

So, here are the facts. DC's new Harley Quinn-fronted film Birds of Prey opened to a modest $33,010,017 (domestic) against a roughly $84.5 million budget.

Yes, this is a bit low for an opening, especially for a film projected to do about $40 to $45 million its first weekend. Many have taken these numbers and run with the idea that the film is a failure or a flop, when it really isn't at all. For instance, Birds of Prey opened at number one that first weekend.

A lot of things affect box office returns like this. Timing is a big one. (The Hollywood Reporter even pointed out that coronavirus fears could have stunted the film's Asian returns.) The movie's R rating is another factor. A PG-13 rating would have given more viewers the opportunity to see the film.

For a big-picture perspective, writer Mark Hughes over at Forbes took a good long look at the last few years on the DC/Warner Bros. slate to put things in a broader context.

Birds of Prey
Credit: DC Comics/Warner Bros.

Was Birds of Prey a flop?

Hughes sees the Birds of Prey release as part of a larger Warner Bros. strategy to position big, for-sure tentpole films like the new Wonder Woman 1984 and Aquaman as bookends in the schedule. Between those, smaller, riskier, lower-budget films are spread out in an attempt to reach diverse audiences.

Hughes points to Shazam!, Joker, and Birds of Prey as examples of those smaller films rounding out the schedule.

Hughes says, "It’s not brain surgery, and is in fact a fairly straightforward and obviously simple plan. And it was carried out successfully—all three films were good or great; all three films got mostly positive reviews and good audience reactions; all three films combined for a big return on the investment overall; and all three films represented unique approaches to tone, style, narrative, audience appeal, and place within established or new continuities."

Hughes also points out that each film was released in a different season, with different target audiences, spreading its appeal over a greater "area." Warner Bros. funded these movies through various investors, sharing the risk across a broader space and taking a chance that all of the movies might underperform.

Birds of Prey is currently sitting at a worldwide gross of $147 million, so it's definitely been a slow box-office burn, but it will break even and be fine.

This strategy at Warner Bros. will hopefully lead to more unique properties and risky, smaller films with new perspectives.

Do you agree with Hughes' assessment? Let us know in the comments.     

Your Comment

7 Comments

I don't really care about the film one way or the other, but when did 84 million dollars become lower-budget? I remember when the Fifth Element was made for around that price and was the most expensive European movie ever made.

February 20, 2020 at 6:21PM, Edited February 20, 6:29PM

0
Reply
avatar
Mike Tesh
Pro Video / Indie Filmmaker
883

"Birds of Prey opened to a modest $33,010,017 (domestic) against a roughly $84.5 million budget."
--- Add on a nother 20 or so million for reshoots.

"Yes, this is a bit low for an opening, especially for a film projected to do about $40 to $45 million its first weekend."
---No, estimates had it at 55-60 million. 40 was already consider low... but then wow.

"For instance, Birds of Prey opened at number one that first weekend."
Doesn't really matter. Plenty of flops, turds or turkeys open number one.

"(The Hollywood Reporter even pointed out that coronavirus fears could have stunted the film's Asian returns.) "
--- The film was never slated to open in china. people already called this out. Also, Box office mojo put a decimal point in the wrong place to tally the austrailian box office- claiming it made 25million there. But in reality, it made 2.5 million. So subtract that.

"Between those, smaller, riskier, lower-budget films are spread out in an attempt to reach diverse audiences."
---but they didn't show up.

"all three films combined for a big return on the investment overall; "
---except recent news suggest, BOP will lose money. It needs to clear 250 million.

"Birds of Prey is currently sitting at a worldwide gross of $147 million, so it's definitely been a slow box-office burn, but it will break even and be fine."
---studios do not look for slow burn earner that trickle in money as the execs grow old. they want hits. Shazam is getting another go-around because maybe the ROCK can save it's mediocre earnings.

"This strategy at Warner Bros. will hopefully lead to more unique properties and risky, smaller films with new perspectives."
---As long as first time directors who come out of nowhere don't get to work with first time producers* who write vanity projects for themselves where they outshine characters more important than her own. The BOP are now ruined by this cheap looking CW-in-theatres, garbage.

February 20, 2020 at 8:24PM

0
You voted '-1'.
Reply
avatar
Vincent Gortho
none
1013

it was a major flop

February 21, 2020 at 8:08AM

0
Reply

Who cares if this film flopped? I hope all of these comic-book movies flop so this current cinematic plague ends.

February 21, 2020 at 12:41PM

0
Reply

Look at us, we’re woke.
Another headline for this article.

February 22, 2020 at 12:32AM

0
Reply
cee dee
186

Indeed ... Thank You

February 29, 2020 at 6:19AM

0
Reply

We're in a comic-adaptation frenzy, and sometimes it's assumed a particular film will work just because it's part of the Marvel or DC universe. Truth is not all characters are equally interesting, and same goes for protagonists (The Joker has had many "fathers" and still, some of these have failed to engage the audience.)
In this particular case, focusing on the positive, I admire the work behind the typography employed for "Birds of Prey" marketing materials. Impeccable attention to detail.

February 25, 2020 at 3:21AM

4
Reply
avatar
Vicent Llopis
Film Marketing Pro
268