Margot Robbie holds grenade launcher in Birds of Prey

“Birds of Prey” Box Office Failure is Make Believe

Movie and box office websites have fallen all over themselves to report the failure that is “Birds of Prey”. The Harley Quinn superhero movie only made $33 million in its opening weekend! What if I told you this assessment of its failure is inaccurate? What if I told you there was a male-driven action film with the same budget and same box office performance that came out at the same time of year? Would you be surprised that it was lauded as a box office success and got two sequels?


Bear with me while we get into some numbers. The budget for “Birds of Prey” is variously reported as between $75 million and $97.1 million. The two most reliable box office reporting sites measure it as $82 million (The Numbers) and $84.5 million (Box Office Mojo). We’ll go with these figures, but also talk about the most expensive estimate later.

The budget for “Kingsman: The Secret Service” was $81 million. It was a male-driven, niche action movie that came out in 2014 and was widely applauded for its surprise performance.

As mentioned, the opening weekend for “Birds of Prey” was $33 million. The opening weekend for “Kingsman: The Secret Service” was $36.2 million.

Well, what about international box office, outside the U.S.? “Kingsman” earned about $53 million overseas in its opening weekend. “Birds of Prey” earned just over $48 million in its opening weekend.

It’s notable to point out that “Birds of Prey” counts its totals without a China opening. China takes an outlandish cut of box office earnings made by foreign films, which account for $22.5 million of the “Kingsman” opening and thus far $0 of the “Birds of Prey” opening. This means that in terms of earning profit, they performed pretty equally and “Birds of Prey” may have even had the better opening weekend abroad.

You have two movies that cost essentially the same, and earned essentially the same opening weekend, at essentially the same time of year. “Kingsman” was widely reported as a rousing success. “Birds of Prey” is being widely reported as an abject failure.


But maybe we should compare “Birds of Prey” to other DC superhero franchises. At about $84 million, “Birds of Prey” has just over a third the production budget of 2013’s “Man of Steel”. It has a third the budget of “Batman v Superman”. It has less than half the budget of “Suicide Squad”. It has just over one-fourth of the budget of “Justice League”.

(Even the higher $97.1 million budget estimate reported by Screen Rant means that “Birds of Prey” would be the second least expensive DC Extended Universe movie just behind “Shazam!”)

Advertising budgets aren’t made public, but they are estimated at 1-1.5x the cost of the production budget. Advertising and production in total typically equals between 2-2.5x the production budget alone.

“Man of Steel” made $291 million domestic off a $225 million budget. A $668 million worldwide total (including domestic) means it likely eked out a profit in the theaters after advertising is accounted for…just not that much of one. It got a $250 million sequel.

“Justice League” never even matched its budget. When it came out in 2017, the $300 million film made only $229 million in the U.S. At a $657.9 million worldwide total, it likely didn’t even make up its outlandish advertising budget.

After just two weeks in release, “Birds of Prey” has made $61.7 million domestic and a $145 million worldwide total. It’s on track to make up its production budget domestically, and to more than turn a profit after advertising once international takes are added. That’s the definition of a success, and it already out-paces other DCEU films.

Of course there are DC films that have performed better: “Aquaman”, “Wonder Woman”, and “Shazam!” are the best performing films the DCEU has. The point is, there are more DC films that have performed equally or far worse.


But “Birds of Prey” came out in February, the same month as “Black Panther”! That means something for some reason, right?

February is actually one of the worst months in terms of box office, and that’s not even talking about being a shorter month. Simply looking at weekend openings, only two films have ever opened above $100 million in February. Only 11 films have ever had an opening weekend above $50 million in February.

An opening of $33 million is directly in line with other films of this budget. Beyond that, the film had a great second weekend hold, only dropping 48.2%. In fact, it joins “Aquaman” and “Wonder Woman” as the only DCEU films not to have dropped more than 50% in their second weekends.

Why we’re suddenly pretending it’s a surprise or mystery is…well, the reason’s obvious but let’s get to that in a second.


As Comic Book points out, another close comparison to “Birds of Prey” is “Ford v Ferrari”, the Matt Damon-Christian Bale Oscar-bait film that opened at $31.5 million domestic. Comic Book points out that this was a $97.6 million film, just out-pacing even the highest budget estimate for “Birds of Prey”. Yet it was celebrated as a success with a lower, $31.5 million opening. With the benefit of Thanksgiving, the holiday break, New Years, and extending its Oscar run, it amassed a grand total of $117 million domestic and $224 million worldwide.

At $145 million worldwide in just two weeks, “Birds of Prey” is guaranteed to surpass the Oscar-bait racing movie. Yet despite better performance on either a slightly or significantly lesser budget, “Birds of Prey” is defined as the failure and “Ford v Ferrari” as a success.

What makes “Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn” different from similarly performing films? It’s written by, directed by, and stars women.

“Kingsman” is a movie about men that uses women as rewards. It’s co-written by Jane Goldman, but the women in the film are fetishized, need to be saved, and one is presented as an unfeeling sidekick.

Comic Book points out “Ford v Ferrari” is a film written by, directed by, and starring men. These films get a pass when they perform just like “Birds of Prey” did. They’re hailed nonetheless as successes.

That films like this would perform almost the exact same – or worse than – “Birds of Prey” and yet receive the exact opposite narrative assessing that performance is a double-standard, plain and simple.

I’d go even further and say that while progress has been made, there’s also a misogynist bridgehead that’s taking shape in criticism due to 4chan style brigading of review sites. The numbers that get reported about box office are accurate. The narratives derived from them aren’t. They’re neither based on accuracy nor consistency, and they’re too often influenced by what narrative will frenzy male followers into perceiving they’re victims of women and diversity.

As Harley Quinn reminds us, “Behind every successful man is a badass broad”. She just doesn’t get the credit for doing more with less.

Read my review for “Birds of Prey” right here.

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28 thoughts on ““Birds of Prey” Box Office Failure is Make Believe”

    1. I remember when Wonder Woman was being criticized from the same angle for being a feminist woke movie. Now it’s what those same critics want to return to. Funny how an ineffective movie you think doesn’t accomplish anything accomplishes that.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Absolutely nobody considered Wonder Woman a woke movie, which is why people liked it. It also respected and followed the source material unlike this crap masquerading as Birds of Prey. What alternate reality do you live in?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. The reality in which both Birds of Prey and Harley Quinn were created in the 90s and have both already seen reboots and re-thinks in that short amount of time that have re-written their characters and relationships multiple times. Every iteration of them in a new medium has re-interpreted their origins while creating new stories (something that’s true for virtually every superhero, really). That reality.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Didn’t affect my opinion of wanting to see the film regardless, but It came from Ewan McGregor quite a bit before the movie came out. Certainly added fuel to the fire.
        ‪Today Show‬
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    2. Nope. We are asking Birds of Prey. Just because fanboynazi don’t like it doesn’t mean there isn’t audience. If you left your mom’s basement you would under there is a world out there with people who have needs besides your own.


  1. Here’s the problem with this analysis; according to Time, the average price of a movie ticket in 2014 was $8.17. According to The Hollywood Reporter, by the end of 2019, it had climbed to $9.26 (I’m unable to find numbers for the first quarter of 2020 as of yet). Kingsmen (which I didn’t see, I don’t have an axe to grind for either film) sold about 4.4 million tickets its opening weekend at the domestic box office. Birds of Prey sold about 3.6 million tickets. For whatever reason, BoP didn’t entice as many people to the cinema, and with Sonic’s opening weekend coming close to doubling BoP’s debut, it clearly enticed a February audience, so that’s not necessarily the case.
    Birds of Prey will (probably) make its way into the black (Hollywood Accounting not withstanding), but comparing it to Kingsmen is at best comparing two very different kinds of apples.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s not a problem because we’re ultimately comparing ratios. If you’re accounting for inflation regarding Kingsman’s box office, you also have to account for inflation regarding Kingsman’s budget. You can’t just decide to factor one in and not the other. The ratios we’re working with between box office and budget don’t change.

      This is one reason you can compare it to the ratios of other, more expensive DCEU films. For instance, at $229 million domestic, “Justice League” made up for 76% of its production budget after its entire run. At $61.7 million domestic, “Birds of Prey” has made up for 73% of its production budget in only two weeks.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I enjoyed Birds of Prey. It’s the first comic book movie I actually enjoyed in awhile. It was fun and didn’t take anything serious, unlike a lot of them have lately. Hope to see more of the characters in other films.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. As I asked of No Feminazi, how was this ‘woke’ in any way? Harley wasn’t bashing men, nor was was Montoya, Huntress, or Canary doing so. I’m guessing that Harley’s use of Harley-Fu pissed you off, but it shouldn’t, since all she’s doing is beating the snot out of bad guys.


  3. I loved this movie. That being said, the reason it’s being touted as a failure compared to Kingsman has nothing to do with the gender of the cast or crew but, due to the fact that Kingsman was at the time an unknown and unproven property, with only really one name in the cast versus BOP which, is headed up by a much beloved character and based on a well known and truly tested and proven property.

    Ford vs Ferrari is a different story, it’s a smaller scale movie, meant to appeal to an awards committee. The fact that it was beloved by the general public as well is mostly icing on the cake.

    Your thesis while sound in theory is flawed and doesn’t take this factors into consideration.


    1. That’s convenient.

      I’d point out my theory has to do with profit at the box office. A successful movie in this regard is one that makes a profit. An unsuccessful movies in this regard is one that doesn’t make a profit.

      I’d also point out that Ford v Ferrari starred Matt Damon, Christian Bale, and had the full force of multiple Oscar campaigns behind it. How that’s posed as a small movie they never expected anyone to see is quite a stretch.


      1. Using revenue as a metric for a “good/successful” movie is silly. Most if not all Oscar winners for best picture usually absolutely bomb opening week and don’t pick up until after all the recognition, sometimes almost a year after release. You’re splitting hairs here in order to right edgy clickbait.


  4. So, here’s the problem, Kingsman opened in less theatres than Birds of Prey, so in that regards Birds of Prey has the advantage, yet what the numbers are showing is that per theatre less people are going to see Birds of Prey than Kingsman.

    Also comparing an established IP and a film with a known and loved main character to a film that was a brand new IP and a total unknown quantity is not exactly a level playing field. Studios go with known IP’s because they are considered ‘safe’
    Then if you consider that many thought that Harley Quinn was the best thing in Suicide Squad, Birds of Prey should have been a licence to print money.

    Finally if you chart the performance between the two, Birds of Prey underperforms on average against Kingsman after the first two nights.

    Next issue, what you are failing to address is the expectation set by the studio, they set the number that it was expected to achieve at $100million in its opening weekend, it only achieved a third of that, it seems they probably expected it to get similar numbers to Suicide Squad’s opening.
    It is by this metric that the media is considering it a failure, and by the box office openings of the other DCEU films.
    The WB execs are not exactly going to be meeting up after this and drinking champagne and talking about how Birds of Prey has been a great success, not when it has failed to meet their expectations and fallen far short of them, instead they are probably calling people in and demanding answers as to why it did not do better and trying to make sure that The Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman 1984 don’t end up as similar disappointments.

    You also fail to mention or consider that Batman vs Superman was considered a failure as that also failed to achieve expectations, same as Solo: A Star Wars Story, and Rise of Skywalker, but was that inconvenient to the narrative that the reason why Birds of Prey is being called a failure is misogyny?

    Ford v Ferrari is an irrelevant distraction, niche films that aren’t expected to do ground breaking numbers on a world stage, but come away with a reasonable performance is not news.

    If there is a story here, then it is that Birds of Prey set itself an unreasonable expectation, and with all things considered, hobbled itself to the point that it was never going to reach those expectations.
    So the true story is that the analysts got the prediction so wrong with high expectations and DC studios put itself in a situation that it could never reach those in the first place. THAT is what should be examined.

    What were the negative factors going against Birds Of Prey going into opening weekend? DC’s poor record with Comic Book films, Suicide Squad was panned by audiences and reviewers, R rated film means it’s limited its target audience, reshoots, and to some small amount, the social media surrounding it.
    I would say a lot of people stayed away because they expected it to be bad, and when reviews came in (not from Rotten Tomatoes, because a lot of people don’t trust them anymore) they had that confirmation, people don’t want to spend a lot of money to see something that is simply okay.
    Birds of Prey has a lot of issues, from the way you can tell reshoots were done, to the way that some characters don’t get enough screen time, to the disjointed way it is presented with flashbacks ruining the flow of the film, to the way it wants to be a violent R rated film, but also doesn’t want Harley Quinn to be seen as a killer/villain but antihero, that is not saying it is without its positives, but when going to the theatre can often be more expensive than the price of a bluray, you know what people are going to choose. The film has to be something special these days to warrant going to the theatre.

    So, should expectations been set lower? Were they unreasonably high? Yes, Aquaman and Shazam showed that, and they weren’t R rated.
    Whoever did the predictions got it wrong.
    However, Comic book films should be a licence to print money
    a Harley Quinn film should have been a guaranteed success
    WB are failing and getting it wrong, whatever they are doing, they need to course correct, Aquaman was considered ‘competent’ Wonder Woman was considered good, Joker was their big success, so they are capable, after all they did The Dark Knight, but they have not been able to replicate the successes of Marvel in making successful films time after time.


    1. If studio execs expect a movie to have a $100 million opening weekend, they don’t put it in February. As I mention in the article, only two movies in history have surpassed $100 million opening weekends in February.

      You also mention people staying away because of the Rotten Tomatoes ratings. It has a 78% with critics and a 79% with audience. It’s the highest rated movie in the top 16 box office earners that doesn’t have an Oscar nomination. I don’t want to be rude, but is this claim something you took 30 seconds to research, or just something you felt enough to think it was true? At the time it came out, Birds of Prey was the best reviewed wide release in a month.

      I also can’t help but find it ridiculous that someone would claim a $100 million film starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale complete with multiple extended awards pushes and wide release across the three most important moviegoing holidays was just a little, upstart movie no one expected to do well.

      What this article is about is math, and how math is reported in a different way when women are successful vs. when men are successful. You’re not challenging the math about profitability here. The claims you’re making are outlandish and at least in one case directly evidenced to the contrary. I get that this is how you feel, and that’s always worth a discussion, but how you feel isn’t always the way that things actually are.


  5. I said NOT from Rotten Tomatoes, as a lot of people don’t trust them anymore. (especially when it was shown that they had frozen audience scores at 86% on Rise of Skywalker)

    Sorry, but Oscar bait films are never expected to perform well at the box office, they aren’t aimed at the every day movie going audiences, they are aimed at Hollywood directors and critics to get nominations and votes. Yes they have big stars attached to them, who also want to win an oscar, usually ones who are known to be good actors and to have won or got oscar nominations in the past.
    It was hardly promoted, or at least it wasn’t outside the US, hence the international box office being surpassed by the US domestic box office.

    Likewise high grossing box office films hardly ever do well at the Oscars, films aimed at getting big audiences aren’t Oscar material, ‘the Oscars aren’t for the riff-raff’, ‘commoners don’t understand art’

    They are generally arthouse films for snobs by snobs.

    This is not about math, this is about specific types of films and known IP’s
    As said before, studios turn to a known IP as it is a ‘safe bet’ this is why we get a lot of sequels, adaptations and remakes and so few original ideas as films in comparison, because a studio is more comfortable releasing something ‘known’ as they are far more likely to make a profit.
    As said before, when known IP’s underperform they are regarded as failures even if they make a profit, Batman vs Superman, Solo, Rise of Skywalker, all called failures, all reported as failures, you can go read media articles about all three where they have been labeled as failures, or watch videos about them where they are being called a failure.

    There is a very high bar when it comes to these IP’s and franchises, they should be licences to print money, so when they underperform they get called a failure.

    Now you already know that releasing a film in February doesn’t prevent a film from making $100 mil in its opening weekend if the IP is strong enough, you referenced it before.
    A comic book film, from a trusted studio known for making good films.
    Black Panther showed if you have the reputation, and a known IP you can release those films during any month.
    WB and DC has the IP, but right now they are lacking the reputation.

    If you want to talk math, how much money does a film within the Batman franchise make on average?
    Now how much would you expect a film to make with a beloved Batman character staring in it?
    See my point?

    This is the mishandling by DC and WB
    It is unfair to simply say that Birds of Prey is a failure, it is more true to say that the DCEU is a failure in general and DC and WB’s handling of things have been a failure, right now the DCEU is back to the state it was in after Batman and Robin, that is how little faith fans have in WB and DC and why they don’t show up at the theatres.


    1. Holding up one of two February movies that’s ever crossed $100 million opening weekend as proof that it’s easy to make $100 million opening weekend isn’t the point you’re insisting it is. Only two movies, in the entire history of blockbusters have crossed $100 million on an opening weekend in February. Only two. The point is that it’s exceedingly rare. The first $100 million opening weekend was in 2002. That means in 18 years where weekends like that were possible, February averaged only one $100 million opening every nine years.

      This is also why I bring up films that have crossed $50 million opening weekends in February. The first $50 million opening weekend was in 1995. Now, only 11 movies in February have opened above $50 million in a weekend. That means only 11 movies in the 25 years since $50 million opening weekends have been recorded have had that kind of opening in February. That means you only get a $50 million opening in February about once every two-and-a-half years.

      Another way of looking at it is that February has had 11-$50 million openings, compared to 55 such openings in May, 38 in June, and 45 in July.

      Obviously, this has accelerated in more recent years with inflation, but the general lesson is still very applicable. Do you know what the two highest opening movies in February 2019 were? How to Train Your Dragon 3 at $55 million and The Lego Movie 2 at $34.1 million.

      Do you know what the next highest opening movie in February 2018 was after Black Panther? It was Fifty Shades Freed with a $38.6 million opening.

      In fact, only one February has ever had two movies open above $50 million. It was 2015, with the ultimate double header: Fifty Shades of Grey and The SpongeBob Movie.

      If they expected a $100 million opening for any movie released in February, then they were on some serious drugs. February is a month in which a $50 million opening for any film is excruciatingly unlikely, let alone a $100 million opening. Moreover, I can’t find any information that Birds of Prey was expected to have a $100 million opening. If they did expect it to have that kind of opening, they would have moved it at least to March if not the summer altogether, and they would have put a lot more money into it in the hope of an even higher opening.

      In terms of IP, you just proved my point. As I mention, several DC movies have underperformed. You then also mention that several DC movies have underperformed before saying that Birds of Prey should have been expected to overperform because it’s a DC movie. Which of those arguments are you making – that several DC movies have underperformed, or that Birds of Prey should overperform because that’s what DC movies do. The two arguments are the complete opposite of each other. Which are you making?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m not making two different points, you are failing to understand one simple point. here is the simple version:
        DC/WB are underperforming, so Birds of Prey should have been expected to underperform by the standard of DC/WB
        DC/WB films are underperforming, this is a failure of DC/WB, as they should be expected to perform as well as Marvel, by that metric DC/WB films ARE failing.

        The point I’m making is the point you are missing and one that has been going on for a while now, Birds of Prey is a ‘failure’ and the media are reporting it this way the same way they reported various past DC/WB titles as being a failure. The only times they have let up on the narrative is when it had seemed they had course corrected and might start making good films again.

        The story, the big story, is that all of this is down to a colossal mismanagement by DC/WB who have looked to replicate the success enjoyed by Marvel and have fallen way short.

        This is why Black Panther was the perfect example, look how much money Marvel films are bringing in many bring in around $100 mil on their opening weekend with the big films surpassing that, Ant Man being the outlier, with the sequel Ant Man and Wasp being called a flop and Marvel’s first failure.

        DC/WB should be pulling in that kind of money with their DCEU films, but they haven’t been, fans have been heavily critical of the films, with the early installments doing a lot of damage to the brand early on, this is now meaning fans aren’t showing up, Aquaman, Shazam, Birds of Prey.
        Batman vs Superman directly impacted Justice League and Justice League impacted on Aquaman.
        Likewise Suicide Squad impacted on Birds of Prey.
        If their precursor films had actually been good and liked, then the following films would have had repeat audiences and higher box offices, but as they were bad, fans skipped on the sequels/spin-offs

        DC/WB have destroyed their own IP’s, they have done huge harm to their brand (again) something that hasn’t been seen since the bad old days when the Batman films imploded with Batman Forever and Batman and Robin and needed Christopher Nolan to come in and resurrect the IP (and Batman Begins underperformed at the Box Office due to fans expecting it to be bad due to the previous two films)

        These are known IP’s with a pre-existing fanbase that should be ready and willing to buy their product, and we’re at a time when comic book films haven’t just become acceptable, but widely seen as good and enjoyable by a wider mainstream audience.
        DC/WB should be making huge amounts of money off these films because they are a known IP with known and loved characters, and it’s a media that is really popular right now.
        The fact that DC/WB are nowhere near the Marvel levels of success and are facing plummeting box office figures is indicative of a mismanagement and failure on DC/WB’s part.

        Personally, I stopped going to see DC films after Man of Steel, and I am not unique in that regards. The fact they lost fans early on and still carried on down the wrong track even with the feedback they were getting should ring alarm bells.
        After I saw Superman Returns I felt it had issues, but I still enjoyed it overall, but Man of Steel did not feel like a Superman film, and it’s also why Wonder Woman works, you watch it and you think, “yeah, this is a Wonder Woman film” it has the right feel, it feels lighter, because she has hope, spirit and the drive to always do the right thing. As a film it can go toe to toe with Captain America. Man of Steel however is nothing like the original Superman film, it is a rejection of it, and there are no Marvel films you can compare it to either. By trying to be dark, gritty and real they gave us a Superhero film that lacked the values or spirit of a Superhero film.

        So, yes, Birds of Prey should have been expected to underperform due to the current state of DC/WB, but that doesn’t let it of the hook for their failure to achieve a similar success as enjoyed by Marvel
        A failure is still a failure, even if you expect it to fail.
        Only DC/WB didn’t expect it, they expected it to overperform, which shows that those in charge of DC/WB still don’t have a clue as to what they are doing and does not give much hope for things turning around in the future.
        If they are basing their financial predictions purely based on “well Marvel achieved it” then they have no right being in business.

        That is not to say that they can not achieve Marvel levels of financial success, but as said above, they have to work for it, they have to make good films of comparative quality that people want to see, but lately most of the writing has just been terrible and the majority of the films have just been a mess, or had substantial issues. (Although Wonder Woman on the whole is good, the end has some issues with the way it looked and things but it has the privilege of being the first good DC/WB film I’ve seen since Dark Knight – I’ve not yet seen Aquaman or Joker but I heard Aquaman was enjoyable, but with quite a few issues)


      2. Please check your information. Aquaman was impacted by Justice League, for instance. Aquaman made $1.15 billion worldwide off a $160 million budget.

        You’re also still comparing an ~$84 million film to films that have $300 million budgets. It is not a disappointment when an ~$84 million film makes a profit but doesn’t pull in the box office totals of a $300 million film.

        You seem to keep saying an ~84 million movie should be expected to make $600 million+. This is not based in fact. If that were true, they’d just make all the $300 million cost ~$84 million.


  6. I love variety, and for me, Birds of Prey provided just that. Just as I enjoyed the phenomenal creativity existent in the rest of the DC movies and television series, this one hits it out of the park for me. Here’s to hoping for more excellent entertainment that takes us away from the mundane of a less-than-ideal reality, if for just a small moment, while maybe giving us some intriguing insights and “whams-pops” that inspire!


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