On February 7th 2020, Warner Bros. Pictures’ Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) went on general release. The movie – a sort-of follow-up to 2016’s Suicide Squad – was directed by Cathy Yan and starred Margot Robbie, Ewan McGregor, and Rosie Perez.

The central figure of Birds of Prey was the fan-favourite character, Harley Quinn. Quinn had previously appeared in Suicide Squad, and was included in Birds of Prey because she was regarded as the standout star of Suicide Squad.

In fact, as much as Birds of Prey was an ensemble piece, just like Suicide Squad, the film was also a Harley Quinn picture. As such, a great deal of the marketing material placed Quinn in the spotlight to attract audiences.

Image: ©Warner Bros. Pictures/DC Entertainment

Prior to its theatrical debut, expectations for Birds of Prey were high, with Warner Bros. Pictures forecasting an opening weekend figure of $45 million domestically. However, when the movie arrived in cinemas, the film did not meet this figure and instead took a weekend total of around $33 million at the North American box office. (Source: Box Office Mojo)

Because the figure did not match up with predictions, various entertainment news sites began to report stories about the movie under performing. These stories were later met with news that Birds of Prey was getting a post-release title change, to help encourage audiences into the cinema.

It was suggested that the title Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) was too long and too confusing for some audiences, and it didn’t put enough focus on Harley’s involvement in the picture. Online rumours then suggested the title would be altered to Harley Quinn, dropping the Birds of Prey moniker altogether.   

But was there any truth to the stories? Did Birds of Prey get a name change to Harley Quinn?

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Did Birds of Prey get a name change?

Image: ©Warner Bros. Pictures/DC Entertainment

At some cinemas, Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) did get a name change. The title was abbreviated and reworked, but not to Harley Quinn, instead to Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey.

Harley Quinn took the top spot on the title, as she was viewed as the most recognisable character and one that audiences would have an association with. Birds of Prey followed because the movie focused on the formation of a team of all-female heroes called the Birds of Prey.

But while this title change would come into effect for some cinemas, it is important to note that the film was not officially re-titled by the studio. Some news reports suggested the studio was scrambling to generate interest in the film, and were keen to re-title the picture as a result; but this was not the case. The film was re-titled by cinema chains and ticket sellers ONLY, and had nothing to do with the studio.

IGN clarified this, with a piece that read:

“A Warner Bros. spokesperson told IGN that the official title remains the same, and this new title is only being used by ticket sites to help search expansion. The original had “Harley Quinn” at the end of a very long title, so this new title is designed to help people better find the movie when searching for “Harley Quinn.”

So, after its opening weekend, some customers who went to see Birds of Prey found the film listed as Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey, while others found it still listed as Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) – or in some cases, simply Birds of Prey. It was completely at the discretion of the cinema chain.

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Is it a good idea to change the title of a movie?

Image: ©Warner Bros. Pictures/DC Entertainment

Altering a movie title, especially one as long and cumbersome as Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), can be quite important for attracting audiences. Not everyone knows the inner workings of a movie, so a title can convey a great deal of information.

Changing a title can have a positive impact on a movie, as it can convince audiences to give the film a go. However, it is not always wise to change a title post-release, as it can create negative connotations about how good the movie is/how well it is performing etc.

In the case of Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), the change was purely instigated by cinemas and/or ticket sellers. Was it a bad move? No. If cinema chains need to encourage audience into theatres, or they simply need to make a title appear much clearer on their billboards, then it must happen.

Studios are ever mindful of this situation when titling films, to ensure the right title reflects the character(s) and the brand. After this confusion with the Birds of Prey title, it is likely future DC movies will carry shorter titles and not lengthy ones like Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn).

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Thank you for taking the time to read this post on I’ll Get Drive-Thru – I do hope the information has proved useful. Should you wish to know more about Harley Quinn or the Batman movie series, please take a look at one of the recommended reads below.

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