Here’s why Birds of Prey didn’t underperform at the box office

MARGOT ROBBIE as Harley Quinn in Warner Bros. Pictures’ “BIRDS OF PREY (AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN),” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.. Claudette Barius/ & © DC Comics
MARGOT ROBBIE as Harley Quinn in Warner Bros. Pictures’ “BIRDS OF PREY (AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN),” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.. Claudette Barius/ & © DC Comics /

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) has been in theaters for nearly three weeks, and reports of its disappointing box office are still circulating the Internet.

Birds of Prey kicked off the 2020 comic book movie season on Feb. 7 and ended its first weekend at $33 million domestically. It has since gone on to earn $72.8 million domestically ($173.9 million worldwide) as of this writing. There have been conversations, tweets, and articles detailing how Birds of Prey has underperformed, and that is simply untrue. With a budget of $84.5 million, the film ranks third as part of the DC Extended Universe collection on Rotton Tomatoes. These numbers are only disappointing for two reasons:

  1. Comparisons to Deadpool
  2. The $84.5 million budget

What’s frustrating is the amount of negative talk being thrown around about Birds of Prey and its box office returns. For example, the site that reported Birds of Preydisappoints at the box office” with its $33.2 million opening also once stated that Ford v Ferrari dominates the weekend box office” with a $31 million opening. While one is rated R and the other PG-13, and they’re in two different genres, it shows the unfair take people have with the latest Warner Bros. DC film.

When it comes down to it, 175 rated R movies have made over $100 million domestically or more at the box office. That’s less than 20% of the R-rated movies that Box Office Mojo is tracking for Lifetime Grosses. Birds of Prey falls into the top 30% of that category. When it starts getting compared to Deadpool or Joker, the disappointment really kicks in; but again, these are unfair comparisons.

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  1. Deadpool and Ryan Reynolds are one and the same. Furthermore, it took 7 years and leaked test footage to get this movie made. Margot Robbie is excellent as Harley but doesn’t necessarily embody the role like Reynolds does with Deadpool. That could be because Birds of Prey was Harley Quinn’s second live-action appearance in 4 years vs. our 7-year wait for a rumored Deadpool movie. The first Deadpool movie also had a respectable “R-rated” budget of $58 million. Fox wasn’t expecting a $132.4 million domestic opening.
  2. Joker, also made on a sensible $55 million budget for an “R-rated” film, has one of the biggest advantages—name recognition. The only names in comic books that may be better known than Joker are Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, and Stan Lee.
  3. Birds of Prey, and more specifically the producers, made the mistake of making this R-rated movie on an $84.5 million budget. While it still doesn’t seem like a failure, it does hurt our chances of getting some sort of sequel. There’s nothing in the plot that requires this film to have an R-rating; if the budget had to be this high, it would have made more sense to make this film a PG-13 movie and make it accessible to teenagers. Harley Quinn isn’t necessarily a role model, but the story Birds of Prey is telling is.
  4. With DC Universe’s Harley Quinn animated show, it made even less sense for Birds of Prey to have an R-rating. Warner Bros. could have had the best of both worlds and nothing but (mostly) positive talk about their latest film. Along with all the love the animated series also has received.

It’s a shame that, while Birds of Prey is not only generally well-received by critics and the audience, that there is so much negative talk about its box office performance—especially since it’s performing the way a majority of R-rated films perform. This is one of those movies that will find much more love and new life once it hits Blu-ray and digital in a few months.

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Do you think Birds of Prey is underperforming at the box office, or is it getting blown out of proportion? If you’ve seen Birds of Prey, let us know your thoughts on the film in the comments below!