Despite a rocky financial start and a cynical people within the “fanbase” rooting for it to fail, the reality is that Birds of Prey has managed to not just do well, but be financially strong. Even though it was labeled a bomb, it’s still the 4th highest-grossing movie of 2020 so far, and with a movie industry dealing with COVID-19, it’s important to think about the way we have structured the box office system thus far.
— DiscussingMovies (@DiscussingMovie) March 12, 2020
The other films above Birds of Prey are, in order, Dolittle, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Bad Boys for Life, with the leading film having a worldwide gross of $416,564,764 and Sonic sitting at $299,662,300.
We treat the box office in contradictory ways. It’s important and groundbreaking when we need it to be, and it is irrelevant and biased when it doesn’t go in our favor. Both things can be true. I think that Sonic was able to take negative publicity, twist it into goodwill by making corrections, and benefit from a nice PG-13 rating. Bad Boys for Life was just a whole lot of fun and proves that Will Smith has a big enough draw when he’s in a project that has name recognition, plus the positive reviews and (comparatively) small budget worked.
Dolittle is a bad movie, and it did very poorly; with a budget of $175 million and a gross of $221.8 million worldwide, it’s a bomb of obscene levels. To only make just over 46 million back with a lead like Robert Downey Jr., and plucking every star they could find, is a damn shame. But, it made just enough money for it to still be the third-highest-grossing film of the year.
This matters because—with movie releases being stagnated for a while, some until almost the end of the year—we may not have the same booming movie box office for a while.
I love Birds of Prey; there is an absolute bias in that, and while I understand some of the criticisms around it, I also think that we, unfortunately, have a box office system that loves to feed its own biases. I’m happy with the film being a cult classic-type, and I’m sure that it’ll probably do much better on Blu-ray, but the sad reality is that, without Birds of Prey, we have no women directors on this list (so far). It is also one of two with a female protagonist.
We still have to win these little battles in order to get anything done, and it feels exhausting. It doesn’t help that people decided, for some reason, to pit Sonic against Birds of Prey as if they are the same. If there is something to blame, I honestly feel like they should have put the movie out at a different time, earlier in the year, and (despite my personal desires) making it PG-13 would have probably helped.
I don’t think it matters how well Birds of Prey does financially if people see it as a failure and dismiss it out of hand. The narrative has already been set, and that is more harmful and impactful than the money.
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