Sure, “Birds of Prey” isn’t the first, and won’t be the last, film to get a title change after it hit theaters. Just in recent years, that distinction has gone to “Ghostbusters: Answer the Call” and “Live Die Repeat” (aka “Edge of Tomorrow”). But the interesting thing about “Birds of Prey” is how quickly the title changed, and how it’s obvious that Warner Bros. is beginning to second-guess the marketing strategy around the film.
So, why did the title of “Birds of Prey” become “Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey?”
Well, according to a new report from The Verge, it appears that the decision was far more analytical than you might think. A WB representative told The Verge that the title change is simply because of a new strategy focused on “search expansion for ticket sites.” Basically, “Birds of Prey” isn’t going to show up in searches on Google nearly as much as “Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey.” As anticlimactic as that explanation seems to be, it does ring true. But it also points to what we’ve been saying since the weekend’s box office numbers were released—there seems to be a massive disconnect between the marketing of the film and the actual film itself.
Granted, I will be the first to admit that I have no insider knowledge about the situation behind-the-scenes regarding “Birds of Prey,” but that being said, if you watch the junket interviews, pay attention to the marketing, and see the final film, you can begin to piece together what exactly went awry over the course of the release.
Margot Robbie is the film’s greatest cheerleader, the biggest attraction, and the creative driving force. But only two of the three of those seem to be working exactly as planned. The creative aspect, which she has revealed quite a bit about over the course of various interviews, shows that she has been the person working behind the scenes to get this film going dating back to 2016. She’s the one that decided to call it “Birds of Prey” because she wanted to make a team-up film with Harley and she picked the DC Comic series as inspiration. And her steadfastness to make a “girl gang” film completely overshadowed what the film actually was—a Harley Quinn solo film. Frankly, Robbie is too close to the birth of the production to understand that the film should have been structured as a Harley Quinn film from the very beginning.
Alas, the film was billed as “Birds of Prey.” The casting teased a big ensemble film. Then the marketing focused almost completely on Harley. Who are the actual Birds of Prey? They’re only named in the film at the very end and don’t include Harley. The characters Huntress, Black Canary, Cassandra Cain, and Renee Montoya are not the focus of the film and don’t get much explanation in the trailers. So, calling the film “Birds of Prey,” but focusing on Harley is a mixed messaging approach to marketing. And studios have to know by now that you can’t confuse audiences if you expect them to pay for a ticket.
Honestly, “Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey” is a terrible title, but probably a much better choice and something that should have been changed months ago. Oh well. Hindsight is 20/20, as they say. It’s just a very expensive lesson to learn.