- After a less than stellar opening weekend, Birds of Prey will be renamed in order to boost its SEO quality.
- Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) will now be called Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey so that audiences can clearly tell it’s a Harley Quinn film when searching for it online.
- The new title is intended to only be used for its theatrical run.
- Compared to other DC films, it had a poor opening weekend, with some blaming the name, R-rating, and release date as potential reasons as to why.
- The film also received criticism from some for not featuring its cast in “sexy” enough attire.
Birds of Prey’s Name Change
After bringing in a disappointing opening box office haul on its opening weekend, Birds of Prey will be getting a search-friendly name change.
The Harley Quinn-centered film originally touted the lengthy title of Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn). Now, movie theaters will list it simply as Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey.
This comes after the Margot Robbie-led picture brought in $33 million domestically during its opening weekend, much lower than Warner Brothers’ projections of $45 million. A representative for Warner Bros. told The Verge that the name change is to specifically enhance “search expansion for ticket sites.”
The move is essentially aimed at making the name of the film more user and SEO-friendly for moviegoers looking to see the new Harley Quinn project by making it clear that the film is about the famous character. Now, rather than having her name buried at the end of a parenthetical, it’s the first thing potential audiences will see.
The change will likely not be permanent, though. Once the movie makes its way to DVD and streaming, it could still be called Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn). As least for now, Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey is intended to last only as long as its theater run.
DC Box Office Hauls
In terms of Birds of Prey’s box office numbers, DC and Warner Bros. have reason to be disappointed. Even though it topped the weekend box office and brought in under $80 million worldwide, which is just five million shy of its budget, the bar is set high for films of this nature. Some pictures might be pleased with a $33 million domestic debut, however, superhero– or in this case, supervillain films– typically do better.
DC’s recent film Joker became the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time, making it past the billion-dollar benchmark by the end of its run. The Oscar-winning Joaquin Phoenix project also had a smaller budget than Birds of Prey and pulled in three times the money in the United States on its opening weekend. Other big movies like Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman ended up raking in over $100 million on their opening weekends.
Potential Factors for Low Box Office
This all leads to the larger question at hand: Why is Birds of Prey not getting the attention that DC and Warner Bros. were hoping for? From the critics’ side, the movie is getting a good amount of praise. On Rotten Tomatoes, it boasts an 80% rating with an audience score of 81%.
The issue of the name is one that Warner Bros. is already addressing. Box office analyst Jeff Book told Variety that “not naming [the film] ‘Harley Quinn’ was a huge misfire.”
“It was a niche comic-book movie,” Bock later added. “Warner Bros. keeps having to learn these lessons.”
Birds of Prey would not be the first comic book movie to deal with titling issues potentially impacting its box office haul. In its early marketing, Dark Phoenix rarely attached the X-Men brand to it in its title. Matched by poor reviews, the movie also brought in a lackluster amount of cash.
It is unlikely that this is the only factor standing in Harley Quinn’s way. The films R-rating does it no favors, as this isolates it from young girls who might be a fan of the anti-heroine. Still, Joker broke records with an R-rating, meaning DC likely still had high hopes.
What Birds of Prey did have to face was a February opening, which can be a dry month as far as box office earnings. Comic book movies, however, do have a good record of breaking that mold. Black Panther broke financial records with a February release. Logan and Deadpool, both of which also had the burden of an R-rating, were massive successes in the month.
Female-Led Comic Book Movies
Some have pointed to the general backlash female-led comic book movies usually face upon their release. This trend extends back to Wonder Woman in 2017 when mainly male fans were upset the film was, for certain showtimes, being screened to all-female audiences. When Captain Marvel came out in 2019, again mainly male fans were upset by feminist messaging used by Brie Larson leading to its release. Some even said they would boycott the movie because of it.
Both those movies did well, so to say their earnings were impacted would be hard. It is worth noting, though, because Birds of Prey is following suit and has gender-based criticism of its own. Some users believed the movie was not sexy enough for a Harley Quinn standalone film.
“They’ve removed any sex appeal these characters had to appeal to a female ‘girl power audience instead of the core male comic book audience,” one Twitter user wrote in a now-viral tweet before the film’s release. “They literally don’t know who they’re making this movie for.”
The idea that the film is for a “core male comic book audience” is only partially true. According to Variety, in its opening weekend, 54% of viewers were male. So while the theaters were filled slightly more by men, it was too close to a 50/50 split to state that the audience was “core” male.
This comment received a lot of backlash online. Some argued that it degrades women to being worth nothing more than their looks, while others argued that the characters in the film did have appeal and were attractive.
One of Birds of Prey’s producers, Sue Kroll ended up responding to this.
“I read that and I thought, ‘Oh my God. That’s so asinine’” she said.
“When you look at the comics, you see these women in there, it’s always very tight clothing, short shorts, boobs pushed up. It’s always very graphic in that way. And we were having none of that,” she added. “But I think they all look beautiful and sexy, and if you look at [Black Canary, played by Jurnee Smollett-Bell] and her costumes, she’s wearing a bustier [bust-ear] but of a different kind. That’s not sexy? She’s not sexy in the club? You bet she is. She’s gorgeous. That’s nuts.”
As was the case with Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman, it’s hard to tell if this kind of backlash affected Birds of Prey in terms of revenue. Still, it does show that female-led comic films usually do have a battle to fight every time they come out.
Because of these narratives around it, many are praising Birds of Prey online in hopes that people will see it and save it from its current box office situation.
As the movie enters the weekend under the Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey title, it will face new competition. The weekend encompasses both President’s Day and Valentine’s Day, which could help fill theaters. But movies like Sonic the Hedgehog, The Photograph, Downhill, and Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island will also be opening, meaning more new films could knock it from the top box office spot.
See what others are saying: (Variety) (The Verge) (Entertainment Weekly)
Netflix Passes 200M Subscribers as Other Streamers Struggle With Retention
- In a letter to shareholders, Netflix said it has hit over 200 million subscribers following a successful year of growth.
- The pandemic gave Netflix a significant subscriber boost in March and April. The company continued to perform well even in its final quarter, gaining 8.5 million subscribers when it was only projected to add 6 million.
- The data also highlights how relatively unaffected Netflix has been by new streaming services entering the market. While companies like Disney+, HBO Max, and Peacock continue to grow, they also struggle to retain the subscribers that sign up.
Netflix Passes 200 Million Subscribers
Netflix has topped 200 million subscribers following a year of strong growth in 2020.
In its Tuesday letter to shareholders, Netflix announced that it added 8.5 million subscribers in its fourth quarter. This exceeds projections, which estimated the streaming giant would only add around 6 million. In total, Netflix gained 37 million new memberships throughout 2020, bringing the company to 203.6 million subscribers.
Pandemic lockdowns gave Netflix a substantial boost in March in April. In the company’s first two quarters, it added a combined 25.7 million subscribers. According to data from the letter, Netflix had added over 10 million more subscribers by May of 2020 than it had by May of 2019.
When it comes to the success of their fourth quarter, Netflix pointed to shows like “Bridgerton” and “The Crown.” The fourth season of “The Crown” hit the platform in November, prompting many to return to older seasons of the show. Netflix claims the series has been viewed by 100 million households since it first aired in 2016.
Success Amid Growth of Competition
The year 2020 could have been a difficult one for Netflix as new streaming services entered the market. Disney+, Apple TV+, HBO Max, Peacock and more have all made waves with their original programming or by taking some of their brand’s content from Netflix to host on their own site. User-based content on YouTube and TikTok also became increasingly popular throughout the pandemic, further posing as a threat to Netflix.
Still, it reached a massive milestone.
“Our strategy is simple: if we can continue to improve Netflix every day to better delight our members, we can be their first choice for streaming entertainment,” Netflix said in the letter. “This past year is a testament to this approach.”
Netflix potentially sees Disney+ as the biggest competitor among new platforms. In its letter, the company noted that the streamer added 87 million subscribers in its first year. In a Q&A, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings seemed enthusiastic about this competition.
“It’s super impressive what Disney’s done,” he said. “It’s going to be great for the world that Disney and Netflix are competing show-by-show, movie-by-movie. We’re very fired up about catching them in family animation, maybe eventually passing them, we’ll see. It’s a long way to go just to catch them, and maintaining our lead in general entertainment that’s so stimulating like ‘Bridgerton,’ which I don’t think you’re going to see on Disney anytime soon.”
Streamers Struggle with Retaining Subscribers
Even as new streamers have had impressive years, there is one hurdle that many are still struggling to jump over: retaining the subscribers who sign up. The Los Angeles Times named Disney+, HBO Max, Peacock, and Apple TV+ in particular, writing that people create accounts with these services, watch the TV shows or movies they are interested in, and cancel once they are done.
An October survey from Deloitte said that 46% of respondents canceled at least one streaming service in the last 6 months, which is up 20% from January of last year. Most who had canceled said they did so because they had finished watching whatever programming it was that brought them to that service.
Places like Disney+ and HBO Max are really vulnerable to this because they have banked on drawing people in with exclusive marquis titles like “Hamilton” or “Wonder Woman 1984.” However, since they are newer, they are still building their original programming catalog, meaning that people can quickly burn through highlight titles.
See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (Wall Street Journal) (The Hollywood Reporter)
Paramount+ To Launch March 4
- ViacomCBS is launching Paramount+ in the United States and Latin America on March 4 before rolling out to other markets internationally later this year.
- The streaming service will be a relaunch and expansion of CBS All Access. It will include content from Nickelodeon, MTV, and more on top of the CBS-focused selection.
Paramount+ Gets Launch Date
ViacomCBS will be launching its streaming service Paramount+ in the U.S. and Latin America on March 4 before rolling out in more countries throughout the year.
It will be an expansion and rebrand of CBS All Access, the service the company currently offers that is used by nearly 8 million subscribers. Paramount+ will go beyond the CBS-centric content promoted there, including works from brands like Nickelodeon, MTV, BET, Comedy Central, and the Smithsonian Channel.
More details about their streaming strategy will be released during an investor event on February 24. Right now, ViacomCBS is boasting that the service will have over 30,000 episodes and movies in their catalog, which will also include live sports and breaking news.
“The Paramount brand is known and loved all around the world, and is synonymous with great entertainment. It’s always brought people together, which makes it a perfect fit for a streaming service that’s uniquely positioned to do the same,” Josh Line the chief brand officer of ViacomCBS said during a brand announcement in September. “The Paramount+ streaming service will elevate ViacomCBS’ iconic family of brands.”
State of the Streaming Wars
Paramount+ has already announced a slew of original projects including a revival of “iCarly” and a series about the making of “The Godfather” titled “The Offer.”
The service is entering an already crowded battlefield as the streaming wars wages on. It will have plenty of uphill battles to fight since brand recognition for Paramount is not nearly as strong as it is for studios like Disney or NBCUniversal. It will also have to compete with Netflix, which leads the pack in subscribers and unveils new content regularly; HBO Max, which will be home to Warner Media’s new theatrical releases; and Hulu, which hosts original content as well as shows currently airing on cable and network television.
ViacomCBS has not released information on pricing, but that will likely come during or before the February investor event.
Olivia Rodrigo Smashes Records with “drivers license”
- Olivia Rodrigo’s debut single “drivers license” has set multiple records on Spotify, becoming both the most streamed song in one day for non-holiday music and the most streamed song in a week.
- It also has become the most globally requested song on Alexa in one day on Amazon Music.
- After its Jan. 8 release, the song became a trending audio on TikTok. Since TikTok’s rise to popularity, the app has helped many songs reach viral success at lightning speed.
“driver’s license” Breaks Records
At just 17-year-old, Olivia Rodrigo is smashing records with her new single “drivers license” after debuting the tune on Jan. 8.
On Friday, Spotify announced the single set the record for most streams in a week. Prior to this, it set the record for most streams on the platform in one day for a non-holiday song.
As of Monday morning, the song has over 125 million plays on Spotify. According to Pop Crave, it was also the fastest song to reach 100 million streams on the popular music service.
Over on Amazon Music, “drivers license” became the most globally requested song on Alexa in a single day. It also became the biggest global streaming debut on the site.
Song Goes Viral on TikTok
Rodrigo is best known for her role as Nini on “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.” She has also appeared in a variety of other Disney projects where she showcased her singing and songwriting capabilities. In “drivers license,” she croons about using the newly minted independence her license affords her to mourn a recent breakup.
The pop ballad has become a popular audio on TikTok. Many use it for dances, to discuss the possibility that Rodrigo wrote it about her co-star Joshua Bassett, or to just wallow in its lyrics. It has been used by some of the app’s most popular creators, including Charli D’Amelio.
Its success on the platform has likely contributed to its success on streaming platforms and charts. The app has had an immeasurable impact on the music industry by helping songs and artists reach the mainstream at lightning speed. Hits like “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X first found a home on TikTok before breaking records on the billboard charts.
Rodrigo has been happy and surprised to see her song perform so well and be so positively received.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I expect this,” she wrote on Instagram after learning that “drivers license” was the number one song on global iTunes charts. “thank u guys so much for listening. I can’t believe this is real life.”