4th UPDATE, Sunday AM w/final chart: In the wake of hitting highs with Wonder Woman, Aquaman and the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all-time in the 11-time Oscar-nominated and billion-dollar-plus grossing Joker, Warner Bros’ DC hit a pothole with the Suicide Squad spinoff Birds of Prey, opening well below projections with $33.2M stateside and $81.2M worldwide ($48M from 78 offshore territories). This wasn’t the lowest DC opening of all-time for Warner Bros. in recent box office history. That belongs to the Josh Brolin 2010 western Jonah Hex ($5.3M).
The domestic opening is well under the $50M-$55M tracking projection, and under the $45M for which Warner Bros was hoping for, while overseas the forecast was at least $110M. And even though the town loves to use tracking as “the dog ate my homework” excuse whenever a film collapses at the box office, they’re not the ones to blame here for Birds of Prey. Despite Birds of Prey in its final days before opening notching an 81% certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, a 4-star PostTrak, and B+ CinemaScore audience exits (same as Suicide Squad and Joker), all of those spurs, which typically work for pics on the big screen, weren’t doing any favors this weekend. Rivals believe the exits are alright, just not the kind that take you over the top at the box office.
In the U.S. and Canada, Birds of Prey made $13 million Friday (including previews) and Saturday of $12.2M, -6%. No one ever expected Birds of Prey to make money in Asia, due to the coronavirus and the IP here. As of right now the thinking is that Birds of Prey will struggle to get past $100M at the domestic B.O. “Overall, it’s bad,” says one film finance source about the global results who has no skin in the game.
What is crucial for Warner Bros, and any other major motion picture studio that wants to compete and rival Disney, is that when it comes to brands and IP, you need to protect them and really ensure the proper production and launch apparatuses are in place to guarantee success (I’ll come back to this point). These decisions need to be thought of long and hard during development. Don’t mess around with brands. At a time when Marvel can slap their name atop any superhero movie and open it to $100M-plus, DC has been trying to rebuild post-Zack Snyder’s Batman v. Superman and Justice League upset. This isn’t great for Birds of Prey, even if it miraculously muscles its way past $40M this weekend.
Some will argue that Birds of Prey was never meant to be a big pic like Suicide Squad with its lower-than-DC-budget (around $97M gross, $84M net).
It’s a brand, and that’s a lot of money to spend, according to finance sources, on a movie that’s intended to be an event film in the offseason.
While spinoffs in their grosses have traditionally shown to be down in their grosses from the core franchise (i.e., Hobbs & Shaw‘s $60M opening was off 39% from Fate of the Furious’ first weekend, and Fantastic Beasts was off 56% from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2‘s first weekend), for Birds of Prey to be off 75% from Suicide Squad‘s record August debut of $133.6M raises many questions on whether the movie should have been greenlit in the first place. What’s baffling here is that Margot Robbie made Suicide Squad fun with Harley Quinn, and arguably a commercial success. It stands to reason that a spinoff would be greenlit, and she was a force behind getting this movie off the ground.
Some in distribution circles question, though, whether the DC bad girl has a big enough following to warrant her own movie. Others in the field say in the spree of bad-ass chick films that have struggled at the box office or didn’t fully pop out (Atomic Blonde, The Rhythm Section, Alita: Battle Angel), Harley Quinn is a bad-ass, and then what? Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel exude heroism in their sell. What does Harley Quinn sell? Captain Marvel beat any deeper universe stigma first in her brand name, and second, the film was a bridge between the highest-grossing Avengers movies all time. And Harley isn’t a female Deadpool. The film, nor she, isn’t very funny, or riveting in their action.
As I mentioned below, Birds of Prey and Harley Quinn didn’t earn the immediate right to an R-rating like Logan spinoff X-Men, and Joker off Batman. Harley Quinn is beloved by young females off the animated TV show and the movie, and that entire audience is being sidelined this weekend because of Birds of Prey‘s R-rating (13-17-year-olds,despite enjoying the movie at 86%, couldn’t show up at 9%; on CinemaScore the under-18 crowd attended at 18% giving it an A-). Who came out to watch Birds or Prey? Why men over 25 at 33%, with guys overall repping 53% of all ticket buyers. Birds of Prey gets its R rating in F-bombs, not the ultra-violence or taboo that Deadpool and Joker exuded.
Next, let’s look at the title. If this movie is about Harley Quinn, then why the hell isn’t it being called Harley Quinn? The movie isn’t about the Birds of Prey. They’re just Harley’s back-up band. It’s fine if you want to reboot those characters from the failed WBTV series, but the movie isn’t about them. I’ve also heard that for some die-hard DC fans that the pic messes up the Birds of Prey mythology. However, in this day and age, with a majority of mass moviegoers not being comic book readers, I don’t think that matters much.
“There are plenty of questions from comic book fans as to who are the new characters. Why doesn’t Black Mask always have the black mask on? And more. So, the naysayers definitely have their concerns not only about plot but also about the film’s woke level,” reports entertainment social media analytics corp RelishMix.
While Marvel continually entrusts its franchises to indie directors (and makes stars out of them), there’s a quality control system in place at the studio, down to a full advisory board of previous Marvel helmers like Jon Favreau, etc., to ensure that they ultimately win. And nothing less. Marvel boss Kevin Feige once told the press during a meet-up prior to a Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 screening that he once overhead a Pixar exec saying that any point in time of production on their animated films, it’s the worst they’ve ever made. “I thought to myself, it’s just not us,” said Feige at the time.
While it’s excellent that Warner Bros supported a female filmmaker in Cathy Yan as they, like Disney, are championing a diverse behind-the-camera workplace, Birds of Prey repped her second directing feature after her Sundance-winning Dead Pigs and her first big studio film. That’s a huge responsibility to put a big branded feature on the shoulders of any young filmmaker. A studio has to make sure that they have all the backstops in place to make sure a young filmmaker wins, not to mention that a big piece of business works in the end (well beyond one executive).
I hear the first cut tested really poorly, and that DC film boss Walter Hamada got Birds of Prey into shape of being the critically praised film that it is. Reshoots were needed based off the first testing.
However, what that did was throw a monkey wrench into marketing’s machine. I understand they should not be blamed here. They only had so much to work with, and materials weren’t ready for the studio to take down to San Diego Comic-Con in July. Despite such stunts as the in-theater trailer drop on It: Chapter Two, and taking Robbie and the film down to Brazil Comic-Con in Sao Paulo, the overall campaign lacked a sense of eventizing (hello, remember, when Hall H fans were posting the illegally taped version of the first Suicide Squad trailer more than a year before its release? That’s eventizing!) and that’s because marketing didn’t have a lot to work with off the movie like they did with Joker, Meg, etc. Remember all the clever marketing tricks and self-parodies that Fox pulled off on Deadpool? That wasn’t possible here.
Also, sorry, but the release date here wasn’t good. After comic-book movies have launched during Valentine’s Day/Presidents Day weekend, why would you avoid the cash grab and not launch Birds of Prey over that time? Moviegoers don’t seem to care that Robbie is nominated for Supporting Actress this weekend at the Oscars for Bombshell and has a movie opening at the same time, plus you’re going to lose your female audiences today to the Oscars (really). Originally, Birds of Prey did have the 4-day weekend, but the studio decided to move it a week earlier. Why’d they move? The thinking over at Warners was to capitalize on being the holdover over Presidents Day weekend, as they studied such pre-Presidents Day movies like The Lego Movie ($69M), and R-rated Fifty Shades Darker ($46M), and John Wick Chapter 2 ($30M) and how they played through the holiday.
Exhibition also wondered why the advance ticket sales date was so late for Birds of Prey and not earlier in January, or even late last year. Tickets went on sale a week and a half ago. By not putting Birds of Prey on sale earlier, there’s a missed opportunity. All that social media and re-posting of tickets going on sale on exhibitor and fanboy sites just didn’t happen here. That sends a huge message to the audience that Birds was never meant to be an event.
RelishMix reports that Birds of Prey has a moderate social media universe of 298.3M across Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram, which is half the 600M+ for the superhero genre, “and for further context, Margot Robbie is the only cast member with a substantial social presence (21.3M followers),” says the analytics company. Again, another unfortunate downside to Birds of Prey: They didn’t cast up with a number of branded stars who could hit various touchpoints with female and mass moviegoers, particularly their young female base. That doesn’t mean that Robbie can’t carry a movie, rather my point is that we’ve seen how ensemble star movies can only do more business at the box office.
Continues RelishMix, “Looking closer at primary social media metrics, Birds of Prey is challenged. Sure, the viral rate of 48:1 looks strong, particularly against seven total clips shared by Warner Bros. But, as we saw with Terminator: Dark Fate a couple months ago, many of these clips could be contributing to a larger social discussion, rather than genuine excitement to see the film. Also, the movie is behind, with 500 new Facebook Fans daily added to its official page, compared to the usual genre average closer to 4K. Finally, the film is earning about 70K view daily on YouTube across its top clips. But many of the earned clips are very low indeed compared to the four or five owned pacing in the hundreds of thousands.”
Birds of Prey over-indexed in the West and Southwest, as expected. Unfortunately, I’m told by distribution sources that these female-charged event pics are challenged in the divisive, conservative-leaning flyover stats where Birds of Prey under-indexed.
Despite the pic’s lackluster commercial turnout here, one of the greatest attributes about Birds of Prey is its reflection of diversity behind and in front of the camera. We need to continue on that course as an industry. Also there’s been many successful diverse films before this, i.e. Black Panther, Fast & Furious franchise and the Star Wars movies. Birds of Prey over the weekend drew 44% Caucasian, 23% Hispanic, 17% Asian/Other and 16% African American.
As the old saying goes, goods movies sell, bad movies don’t. And the latter is what really happened here with Birds of Prey at the end of the day.
Great weekend for Oscar fare with 1917 ($132.5M running domestic), Little Women ($102.6M), Parasite ($35.4M) and Jojo Rabbit ($30.3M) beating where we thought they would be by tomorrow night’s awards ceremony. Man, get a load of Knives Out, a Thanksgiving film that hasn’t given up, and it’s February. The Lionsgate/Media Right Capital pic dipped just 5% and has a great $159M to date, and it only has one Oscar nom for Rian Johnson’s original screenplay. Rivals believer the whodunit has another $6M to go in U.S./Canada with a final of $165M.
Birds of Prey slowed down all titles this weekend with the entire three days grossing $96.1M per Comscore, -17% from a year ago when The Lego Movie Part 2, What Men Want, and Liam Neeson’s Cold Pursuit ranked in the top three spots respectively, hitting a depth of demos. For the Jan. 1-Feb. 9 period, 2020 remains 9.6% ahead of 2019 with $1.09 billion. I imagine that when we get to the end of April, when Avengers: Endgame debuted last year, that’s when we could potentially fall behind 2019.
Studio reported Sunday numbers:
Weekend B.O. For Feb. 7-9
Estimates as of Saturday AM:
Box Office For Feb. 7-9
2ND UPDATE, midday Friday: It’s not looking so spectacular for Warner Bros.’ Harley Quinn movie Birds of Prey which is seeing a Friday of $12.6M (including last night’s $4M), and opening weekend around $33.5M per industry figures this afternoon. Finance sources prefer to wait until overseas figures come in to determine whether this net $84.5M production is in the black (some argue with me that the price was much more). At $33.5M, Birds of Prey is currently under tracking’s $50M-$55M projection and under what Warners was hoping for, which was $45M. We’ll give this DC Suicide Squad spinoff a chance to try and take off before we pluck its feathers in full, but I will say this: It’s a lazy R movie full of F bombs, and it feels in its bones like a PG-13 movie, especially coming off Suicide Squad. It’s not edgy, ultraviolent and genre pushing like Deadpool, Logan, Joker, heck, even Watchmen. And by making this movie R, the studio has potentially sidelined the younger female skewing Harley Quinn fanbase (and there’s plenty from the cartoon series, not just Suicide Squad). Case in point: Last night teens made up a minority of moviegoers, yet loved the movie the most at 94% on PostTrak. Will they come out tonight? Will they buys tickets to Gretel & Hansel and sneak into Birds of Prey? Will those great reviews and exit scores translate into bucks?
Elsewhere we got the following:
2. Bad Boys for Life (Sony), 3,350 theaters (-355), Fri $3M, -42%, $10.3M (-41%), Total: $164.6M/Wk 4
3. 1917 (Uni/Amb), 3,548 theaters (-439), Fri $2.2M, -21%, $8M, -15%, Total $131.5M/Wk 7
4. Dolittle (Uni) 3,462 theaters (-288), Fri $1.35M (-33%), $5.9M (-21%), Total $63.2M/Wk 4
5. Jumanji: Next Level (Sony) 2,729 theaters (-216) Fri $1.3M (-15%), $5.8M (-3%), Total $298.7M/Wk 9
UPDATED following Thursday Exclusive Warner Bros.’ R-rated Suicide Squad spinoff Birds of Prey clocked $4M in previews Thursday night, according to the studio. This is right on the bottom of the range we were hearing about, which was $4M-$5M. Showtimes began at 6 p.m.
Although much lower than such R-rated superhero fare as last year’s Joker ($13.3M), 2016’s Deadpool ($12.7M) and 2017’s Logan ($9.5M), Birds of Prey ultimately is looking to draw a number of females. Hopefully the under-25 female set, which is known to head to the multiplex in packs at the last minute, can raise business upward. They loved Birds of the Prey on Thursday, at 86%, followed by females over 25 at 85%. Those 13- to 17-year olds who were able to buy a ticket really loved it at 94%, but they only made up 7% of the audience. Thursday night’s mix on Comscore/Screen Engine’s PostTrak was 40% guys over 25, 26% females over 25, 18% males under 25 and 17% females under 25.
Birds of Prey expands to 4,236 locations Friday.
Birds of Prey‘s preview number is less Shazam‘s $5.9M Thursday — it was rated PG-13 and had early shows that began at 4 p.m. — and a little under Warner Bros.’ R-rated 2009 feature adaptation of DC’s Watchmen ($4.5M), which was back when previews started at midnight. Some of the box office comparisons that the studio is using include 2014’s Lucy ($3M Thursday night, $43.9M opening and R-rated), 2018’s Ready Player One ($3.8M, $41.7M opening, $53.7M 4-day, PG-13) and 2018’s Ocean’s Eight ($4M previews, $41.6M, PG-13, ).
While tracking largely has the domestic start between $50M-$55M, Warners was spotting $45M, and the more sources I speak with, the more they think the Margot Robbie movie will open in the upper-$40M range. On the plus side, Birds of Prey logged a great four stars and 61% definite recommend on PostTrak Thursday night and before opening, a Rotten Tomatoes score of 86% Certified Fresh, significantly higher than the PG-13 Suicide Squad (27% Rotten in 2016) and not far from Wonder Woman (93% Certified Fresh in 2017).
Birds of Prey has the advantage of higher-priced cinema formats including PLFs, Dolby, Imax, and 4DX Motion Seats.
Sundance Film Festival world cinema winner Cathy Yan directed Birds of Prey off a script by Christina Hodson. Robbie reprises her Suicide Squad role as punk girl crook Harley Quinn. In the wake of breaking up with her boyfriend, the Joker, she gets involved in a caper to recover a diamond that’s been pickpocketed by a young girl. She’s a wanted person by kingpin Black Mask (Ewan McGregor), but Harley teams with a motley crew of femmes — Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and cop Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) to save her.
Birds of Prey is taking flight in 73 territories this weekend including France, Korea, Indonesia, Belgium and Switzerland, sans Japan with a forecasted $60M-$70M launch. The pic’s net cost after $12.6M California tax credits is around $84.5M.
Of those films in regular release on Thursday, Sony’s Bad Boys for Life led with $1.1M, -15% from Wednesday, for a third-week total of $23.9M and an estimated running total of $154.3M. Universal/Amblin/New Republic’s 1917 was second with $1M, -4%, a sixth week of $13.9M and running total of $123.5M before Oscar weekend. STX/Miramax’s The Gentlemen slotted third with $550K, -6%, and a running total in Week 2 of $22.6M. Universal’s Dolittle was fourth with $475K, +1%, a $9.7M third week and running tally of $57.3M. Fifth place belongs to Sony’s Jumanji: The Next Level with $370K, +4%, a $7.7M eighth week and running total of $292.9M. United Artists Releasing/Orion’s Gretel & Hansel made $360K, -9% from Wednesday, for an $8M first week.