Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn failed to gain altitude in its box office debut over the weekend, earning a tepid $33.3 million from 4,236 theaters to mark one of the lowest domestic launches in modern times for a studio superhero pic despite strong reviews.
The female-led film also struggled overseas, where it bowed to $48 million from 78 markets for a global start of $81.3 million. The coronavirus is starting to impact moviegoing in Asian markets outside of China, including South Korea, where Birds of Prey grossed a muted $1.9 million.
The pic was never meant to score a mega-opening since it is a spinoff and sports an R rating. Still, the Warner Bros. and DC title had been tracking to start off with at least $50 million to $55 million in North America and $60 million or more offshore.
Birds of Prey — the weekend’s only new wide release — could at least take solace in coming in No. 1.
Cathy Yan directed the Suicide Squad spinoff, which sees Margot Robbie reprise her role as Harley Quinn. DCEU newcomers Jurnee Smollett-Bell (as Black Canary), Rosie Perez (as Renee Montoya), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (as Huntress) and Ewan McGregor also star. Sue Kroll, Robbie and Bryan Unkeless produced.
The previous lowest opener in the DC Extended Universe was 2019’s Shazam! with $53 million, not adjusted for inflation. Among other superhero titles with low openings, last year’s X-Men installment Dark Phoenix debuted to $32.8 million domestically (that film cost far more to make than Birds of Prey).
The hope now is that Yan’s movie will make up ground over Presidents Day weekend and in subsequent weeks, particularly if females start to flock to the pic in big numbers.
So far, Birds of Prey is skewing male (53 percent), according to leading exit polling service PostTrak. CinemaScore, which only surveyed a smattering of cinemas on Friday, showed a different result, with females making up 51 percent of its respondents.
Birds of Prey earned strong reviews, while receiving a B+ CinemaScore. One dampener could be the film’s R-rating, which automatically makes it difficult for teenagers to partake. On Friday, 73 percent of ticket buyers were 25 and under, according to PostTrak.
The film faced challenges before getting to the big screen. Reshoots were ordered after the studio saw a first cut, with John Wick director Chad Stahelski enlisted to work alongside Yan and infuse Birds with more action.
The opening is another blow for Warner Bros., which has suffered a string of misses and underperformers in recent months. The big exception is Joker, which was up for a leading 11 nominations heading into Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony, with Joaquin Phoenix considered a shoo-in for best actor. (Robbie herself was nominated for best supporting actress for Bombshell.)
Elsewhere, Sony hit Bad Boys for Life fell to No. 2 in its fourth weekend with $12 million for a domestic cume of $166.3 million and an impressive $336.3 million globally after raking in another $48 million overseas.
Best picture Oscar nominee 1917 saw a nice boost on the eve of the Academy Awards, declining just 5 percent to $9 million for a domestic cume of $132.5 million. The Amblin and Universal release marched to another $15.2 million overseas for a foreign tally of $154.8 million and $287.3 million globally.
Specialty pics Parasite and Jojo Rabbit, also among the contenders for top honors at the Oscars, likewise saw a nice bump. Parasite earned another $1.5 million, a gain of 9 percent from last weekend, for a domestic total of $35.5 million and more than $165 million globally. The pic, which was up 13 percent, likewise grossed $1.5 million for a domestic cume of $30.3 million and $74.3 million globally.
Little Women, another best picture nominee, took in $2.3 million domestically and $5.8 million overseas for a worldwide cume of $177 million, including $102.7 million domestically.
Elsewhere, Dolittle placed fourth in North America with $6.7 million for a domestic cume of $64 million and $94.7 million globally, while Jumanji: The Next Level rounded out the top five with $5.5 million for a domestic total of $298.6 million and $768 million worldwide.
Knives Out, which came in No. 8 in its eleventh weekend, is on the verge of topping the $300 million mark globally after earning another $2.4 million domestically and $1.3 million overseas for a worldwide tally of $299.6 million through Sunday.