'Birds of Prey' Falls Short of Box Office Expectations with $33 Million Debut

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) opened to a lackluster box office weekend. The film has earned just over $33 million from 4,000-plus domestic theaters, as it was previously projected to make around $50 million in its first weekend.

The movie did not come with the same expectations as its 2016 predecessor Suicide Squad. The film had a production cost of $80 million, before marketing and distribution fees. That is a stark difference from Suicide Squad's $175 million, along with the added star power of Will Smith, Ben Affleck and Jared Leto.

Yet, the Margot Robbie-led flick had strong reviews, with a certified fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The film also earned a B+ CinemaScore, all the signs pointing to a strong audience and critical reaction. The questions for why the film underperformed have a couple of potential answers.

The primary reason for Birds of Prey's lackluster performance is strongly connected to marketing and rating. The film was touted as the first female-led superhero team-up with Harley Quinn at the center of it all. While it did introduce many comic book characters on the big screen for the first time like Black Canary and Huntress, the film had all the ingredients to have a solid box office run.

The reason it underperformed could have a lot to do with its R-rating. Suicide Squad was rated PG-13, which made it possible for families to attend in greater numbers. For a film that was strongly marketing to young women, Birds of Prey would have benefited with a PG-13 rating.

Birds of Prey Box Office
Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn in 'Birds of Prey' Claudette Barius/ © DC Comics

Much of the violence and language of the film was not integral to the story and did not add much to it in terms of quality. A slightly toned-down version of the film could have performed better to a wider pallet of audience. Still, even with its R-rating, the film was expected to at least hit close to $50 million.

Robbie's Harley Quinn became an instant star and a household name after Suicide Squad and Birds of Prey continues her run as one of DC's most important stars. While the film had an underwhelming start financially, it is important to note that it didn't flop either. Depending on the film's box office legs, it could still end up performing to a solid finish.

Meanwhile, Robbie's Harley is set to appear in James Gunn's The Suicide Squad in 2021.