Warner Bros.’ new film starring Margot Robbie has been given an informal name change following its disappointing box office debut over the weekend. While still officially titled “Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn),” the movie is now showing up in theater listings under the much shorter title, “Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey.”
The sudden name change is an unusual move for a much-publicized, major studio film that is already in theaters nationwide. “Birds of Prey” features one of the day’s biggest stars — Robbie — in her breakout role of the amoral villainess Harley Quinn from the 2016 movie “Suicide Squad." The film received positive reviews from critics, who praised its lively spirit and dark-edged humor. It earned a respectable 80% critics rating at RottenTomatoes, along with an 81% audience rating. What’s more, with its all-female lead cast — including Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Huntress, Jurnee Smollett-Bell as Black Canary and Rosie Perez as Detective Montoya — the film seemed poised to resonate with female audiences.
Why, then, did “Birds of Prey” underperform at the box office with a weekend domestic gross of only $33 million? Did its unwieldy title confuse audiences? Warner Bros. said the name change is part of a "search expansion for ticket sites" which may help moviegoers find it more easily, according to the website The Verge. With a reported budget of $82 million and a worldwide gross of just $81 million to date, "Birds of Prey" faces an uphill battle. Reported estimates say the film will need to earn roughly $250 million to break even.