Birds of Prey is the top movie at the box office in its opening weekend, with $33.3 million in U.S. ticket sales.
That’s not a huge opening, let’s be clear. Birds of Prey didn’t do Marvel numbers. Hell, it didn’t even do DC numbers. For those keeping track at home, $33.7 million is the lowest opening weekend out of any DC Extended Universe release so far.
It’s not all bad news, though. I’ve seen plenty of headlines and social media chatter declaring Birds of Prey a “failure” and a “box office bust.” But it’s important to remember when we’re looking at box office figures that these things don’t happen in a vacuum.
For starters, Birds of Prey is an R-rated movie. That MPAA rating immediately cuts down its potential audience – and box office – since it’s a no-go for families on the hunt for a weekend trip to the movies. Even without much in the way of competition during its opening weekend, the rating surely kept some of the audience at home.
It’s also a February release. The opening months of the year are typically a quiet time at the movies. We’ve seen that paradigm shift in recent years, though that applies more to March; as big studios plan a greater number of annual blockbusters, the “spring” season of movie releases has gotten earlier.
In fact, if we look purely at R-rated movies released in February, Birds of Prey is a Top 15 opening weekend. It comes in at #14, just behind Get Out ($33.4 million) and just ahead of The Wolfman ($31.5 million). Even if we remove the rating from consideration, Birds of Prey‘s opening weekend is the 28th highest of all time for February.
I also haven’t mentioned foreign ticket sales. The movie opened with $48 million from non-U.S. audiences. It’s not clear at the time of this writing which territories are covered in that number or how the split shakes out. But with a global box office take of just over $80 million, Birds of Prey is very close to making more than its reported $84.5 million budget.
I’m not here trying to make a case that $33.5 million is a stellar opening weekend performance. But I do know there are those out there in the wilds of the internet who are rooting against Birds of Prey for petty personal reasons that aren’t worth discussing. That attitude, largely cultivated by a small-but-loud faction of social media trolls, contributes to an overall narrative of failure.
That’s not to say every report of the movie’s poor performance is a conscious embrace bad faith attacks on Birds of Prey. But that’s the insidious nature of trolling at work. People who write for the internet, myself included, end up framing the movie’s release against a narrative that doesn’t have much basis in reality.
Here are the facts: Birds of Prey made less than expected in the U.S. during its first three days in theaters. But its total ticket sales still come out to almost as much as the movie cost to make.
Whether or not it will be profitable, and separately, a boost for the DCEU, remains to be seen. But the apparent agreement between critics and audiences that yes, this is an entertaining movie, says a whole lot more to me about the impact of Birds of Prey is having than any armchair box office analysis, including what you’re reading right now.