Less than a week ago, Margot Robbie’s Birds of Prey opened to much anticipation it would be a box office smash. Now the superhero flick has already been renamed after underwhelming ticket sales.
Birds of Prey, which debuted in Australia on February 6, opened at No.1 in the vital US box office but grossed only $49.4 million, a shortfall of about $16 million on Warner Bros expectations.
Five days later, the movie house has rebadged the Suicide Squad sequel from its full title Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) to Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey.
Or at least, it seems to have. Some mystery surrounds how official the title change is – and it’s rare for a film to change its listed title after release.
In Australia, cinemas including Village and Hoyts are still advertising the movie as Birds of Prey.
The new Harley Quinn name has appeared on cinema marketing, but a Warner Bros rep fudged things when asked a question about it, according to The Verge’s Julia Alexander:
Warner Bros. reps tell me the recent appearance of Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey is "search expansion for ticket sites" when asked if Birds of Prey title change is official.
I have followed up to ask, "lol so it's still Birds of Prey officially or?"
— Julia Alexander (@loudmouthjulia) February 11, 2020
Meanwhile, the other mystery is what went wrong with Birds of Prey, which had a hugely bankable Oscar-nominated star in Robbie, the traction of a new comic franchise, a strong female cast and a built in audience.
Reviews were decent if not amazing. The movie has a ‘Tomatometer’ rating of a solid 80 per cent on movie review site Rotten Tomatoes.
While its marketing was patchy, theories about Birds of Prey not meeting expectations include that the film’s R rating shut out younger fans and that the global coronavirus epidemic kept audiences out of cinemas.
But Warner Bros’ decision to change the name to specifically mention its drawcard Harley Quinn at the start of the title more likely stems from audiences not necessarily clicking that Birds of Prey is about the spiky vigilante.
The movie sees Robbie’s Harley finding her feet and her girl power after breaking up with the Joker. The Australian star also produced the movie, and told Screen Rant ahead of its release about her vision for it.
“I think we were really curious to explore a version of Harley without the perceived protection of being with the Joker, since she so defines herself by that relationship and lets that relationship define the person she was,” Robbie said.
“But she’s come to the realisation that that’s how Gotham defines her as well: she’s Mr. J’s girlfriend. And she wants to step out of that shadow.”
Harley is “not OK” with being a “single independent woman”, despite what she says, Robbie added.
“She’s an absolute mess. But it’s fun to watch her go on this journey of like, “Oh, can I do this? I can’t do it. Oh, maybe I can do it!” And then finding strength in numbers, really, with the rest of the Birds.”
So far the movie has earned $117.6 million globally from 78 markets against a reported $122 million budget, according to Entertainment Weekly.