Sat. Sep 26th, 2020

Box Office Analysis (February 7-9) – ‘Birds of Prey’ flies frustratingly low as Oscar contenders soar

After two weekends in a row of new releases failing to crack even the top 3 of their respective opening weekends, the table seemed well-set for a big over-performance from the year’s first of many comic book/superhero releases, Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn). Unfortunately, the Warner Bros. release ended up coming in below even the most pessimistic predictions, grossing $33.25 million over its opening weekend from 4,236 theaters, marking one of the lowest opening weekends ever for a DC Comic superhero adaptation, coming in well below every entry in the DC Expanded Universe and barely matching the one other DC Comics film to be released in February, Constantine, which made $29.8 million in 2005 dollars.

This kind of opening weekend has led to plenty of “what went wrong?” handwringing, and what’s frustrating is that unlike the last superhero disappoint Dark Phoenix last summer (all of which opened in a similar range), Birds of Prey actually had pretty good reviews, with an 81% on Rotten Tomatoes, and more of an assumed audience demand thanks to having the return of Harley Quinn, the most-liked aspect of massive hit Suicide Squad. Also, while studios have only recently started taking gambles on R-rated comic book adaptations starring major characters, each of them – the two Deadpool movies, Logan, and Joker – were all massive, profitable hits for their studios, all opening to over $88 million. And after years of hesitancy towards building a comic book adaptation around female leads, Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel proved that hesitancy to be unfounded, each making over $400 million domestically, with Captain Marvel topping $1.1 billion worldwide.

With all of those past successes in mind, one hopes that the disappointing start to Birds of Prey doesn’t scare studios off of these kind of gambles that frankly should not be considered gambles. As the superhero/comic book genre enters its third decade of box office dominance, the kind of diversity that Birds of Prey brings to the table (in a number of ways) should still be considered essential to keeping the genre interesting to audiences, even if it doesn’t bring in blockbuster numbers. And with a scaled down $75 million budget, the film should still break even with international numbers. Expect a domestic final total around $90 million, perhaps higher if word-of-mouth is kind to the film.

With Birds of Prey as the weekend’s only wide release, holdovers once again enjoyed some incredible holds. Bad Boys for Life continued to thrive, dropping only -32% (its best hold yet) to a $12 million weekend for a $166.3 million 24-day total. With Birds of Prey‘s disappointing start, Bad Boys is likely to remain the year’s #1 movie for at least another month, until Onward or Mulan pass it up. The weeks of adult-aimed fare with continued to give life to the more family-aimed entertainment. Dolittle enjoyed a minuscule drop of -12% to $6.7 million for a 24-day total just shy of $64 million. Jumanji: The Next Level had its ninth weekend in the top 5, dropping only -8% to $5.5 million for a $298.5 million total. The film is only the second 2019 release to stay in the top 5 for that long, after The Lion King.

With the Oscars tonight, the Best Picture nominees still in theaters experienced some strongholds as moviegoers tried to catch up on any nominees they haven’t seen. The frontrunner 1917 had the best hold of any film in the top 10, dropping only -5% to a $9 million weekend. If it wins tonight, 1917 will be the first Best Picture winner to be in the top 5 the weekend of its win since Slumdog Millionaire 11 years ago, and with the assumed bump from a win, it will be the first Picture winner to gross over $150 million domestically since The Return of the King 16 years ago. Further down the chart, Little Women ($2.3 million, -24%) become the fifth Best Picture nominee of the year to gross over $100 million, as well as the first Best Picture nominee ever directed by a woman to cross the century mark domestically. Further down still, Jojo Rabbit ($1.5 millio, +14%) crossed the $30 million total mark, and potential Best Picture spoiler Parasite ($1.5 million, +3%) crossed the $35 million mark, and by the end of the week should pass In the Bedroom to become the second highest grossing non-IMAX release to never spend a weekend in the top 10, behind only The ArtistFord v Ferrari ($680,000, +10%) was also present.

1. Birds of Prey (And…) – $33.25 million (NEW)
2. Bad Boys for Life – $12 million (-32%)
3. 1917 – $9 million (-5%)
4. Dolittle – $6.7 million (-12%)
5. Jumanji: The Next Level – $5.5 million (-8%)
6. The Gentleman – $4.2 million (-26%)
7. Gretel & Hansel – $3.5 million (-45%)
8. Knives Out – $2.35 million (-9%)
9. Little Women – $2.3 million (-24%)
10. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – $2.2 million (-30%)

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