The Spool / Box Office Report
Box Office Report: “Birds of Prey” Hits Low Altitude
Despite solid reviews, DC's latest putting Harley Quinn front & center struggles to find an audience.

Despite solid reviews, DC’s latest putting Harley Quinn front & center struggles to find an audience.

This past weekend, something rare happened. A live-action title based on a Marvel Comics or DC Comics property underperformed at the box office. Usually, such movies are bulletproof at the box office but Birds of Prey proved that not everything with the DC label on it is destined for box office glory. Opening to just $33.2 million, Birds of Prey came in severely under expectations this frame and scored the lowest debut for a live-action DC title since Jonah Hex. Among prior February openers, Birds of Prey opened just below the $33.3 million debut of microbudget horror title Get Out and also below the $34.1 million opening of last years would-be WB tentpole The LEGO Movie 2.

Birds of Prey is gonna need some incredible box office stamina to recover in the coming weeks, and it feels practically assured at this point that the film will become the only the eighth 21st-century live-action DC Comics project to miss $100 million domestically, following in the footsteps of Catwoman and the two RED movies. Normally you can pinpoint an exact reason these kinds of blockbuster titles went awry, but in the case of Birds of Prey, it’s hard to see what lead to this opening. The marketing was distinct and emphasized the kind of elements (action & comedy namely) audiences look for in these movies, reviews were strong, February has always been a successful launchpad for comic book fare and Harley Quinn is an incredibly popular character.

Perhaps it simply boils down to the fact that sometimes, a surefire success just doesn’t turn out to be as surefire as it seemed. At least Birds of Prey only cost $84 million to make, so the financial losses will be minimal. After all, it’s a tentpole title released by an arm of AT&T, a company so financially secure that it can more than withstand a million mild underperformers like Birds of Prey. Plus, Birds of Prey did score two genuinely impressive box office feats in its opening. First off, as near as I can tell, Birds of Prey is the first time in history a live-action film directed by a woman of color topped the domestic box office. It also joins a rare group of films (which includes The Birdcage) with queer lead characters that managed to open number one at the domestic box office.

No other new wide releases opened against Birds of Prey, which meant holdovers had plenty of room to breathe. This included Bad Boys For Life, which dipped just 32% for a third-weekend gross of $12 million and a domestic gross of $166.3 million. With a three-day weekend on the horizon, it looks like Bad Boys is gonna make a run for $200 million domestically. In third place was 1917, which had the tiniest dip in the top ten with a 5% drop. Grossing another $9 million, this one-take war movie has amassed $132.5 million domestically. Fellow Universal holdover Dolittle also held well this frame as it dropped only 12% for a fourth-weekend haul of $6.6 million and a $63.9 million.

Rounding out the top five was Jumanji: The Next Level which just kept on rolling the dice and scoring with a ninth-weekend haul of $5.5 million (a tiny 7% drop from last weekend) and a $298.4 million domestic total. Meanwhile, The Gentleman actually held quite nicely this frame as it dropped only 25% for a $4.1 million third-weekend haul. This Guy Ritchie crime movie has now stolen $26.8 million domestically. Strong weekend-to-weekend holds extended even to Gretel & Hansel. Typically, horror titles like this fairy tale picture have severe second-weekend plunges but Gretel dropped just 43% this frame. Leaving behind a breadcrumb trail of $3.5 million, Gretel & Hansel has grossed $11.5 million domestically.

Incredibly, Knives Out returned to the top ten this weekend by dropping just 9%. In its eleventh weekend of release, this mystery movie is still grossing $2.35 million and has now taken in $158.9 million. Right behind Knives was Little Women with $2.33 million (a 24% drop from last weekend), giving that Greta Gerwig movie a $102.6 million domestic gross. Rounding out the top ten was Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which fell 30% for a $2.2 million eighth-weekend haul and a domestic gross of $510.5 million.

Just before the Oscars get underway, Jojo Rabbit leaped 14% from last weekend to gross another $1.53 million, giving this satirical comedy a $30.2 million domestic gross. Just behind that feature was Parasite, which made Academy Award history last night and continued its impressive domestic run with $1.5 million, bringing it up to a $35.4 million domestic gross. The Rhythm Section plummeted a steep 63% this weekend, grossing only $1.005 million for a measly domestic gross of only $4.8 million. On the other hand, 2020 Oscar Nominated Short Films kept putting up impressive numbers as it grossed $825,000 (a 25% dip from last weekend) for a $2.6 million domestic gross.

Another Best Picture nominee, Ford v. Ferrari, increased 9% from last weekend, zooming it to another $680,000 and a domestic gross of $116.3 million. Uncut Gems returned to 1,142 locations this weekend and grossed $658,936 for a per-theater average of $577 and a domestic gross of $49.3 million. This makes Gems the biggest A24 title ever domestically and it looks like it’ll also become the studios’ first title to crack $50 million domestically as well. Next up is another Best Picture nominee, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.  Tarantino’s latest grossed another $280,000 for a domestic gross of $142.4 million. 

Moving onto new limited releases, The Lodge bowed in 6 locations and grossed $78,104 for a per-theater average while Elijah Wood’s new feature Come to Daddy grossed $61,381 from 29 locations for a per-theater average of $2,116.

The top ten movies this weekend grossed only $81 million, an underwhelming sum for an early February weekend. That gross is behind the same weekend in 2019 by 14% and down 29% from the same weekend in 2018. Remember back in February 2012 when this pre-President’s Day weekend had four broadly appealing newcomers, each appealing to a different audience? You won’t always have the miraculous results of that 2012 frame where all the newbies excel but at least you aren’t relying exclusively on one tentpole title. After all, if you have a situation like Birds of Prey where the lone tentpole title underperforms, then you don’t have a Safe House or Journey 2 to pick up the box office slack. Let’s see if a blue hedgehog can help pick up February 2020 from its current doldrums.