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Harley Quinn’s flailing ‘Birds of Prey’ suddenly changes its title

Margot Robbie is the star of the newly retitled “Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey.” (Claudette Barius/Warner Bros. Pictures/AP)

Turns out, burying your brand isn’t so “fantabulous” a tactic when naming your Harley Quinn film.

Warner Bros./DC is scampering after its latest superhero spinoff, “Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn),” seriously underperformed at the box office over the weekend. To try to improve the marketing of the movie, the studio is reportedly changing the title to “Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey” at major movie chains.

Theaters such as AMC and Regal had changed the title by Monday, Entertainment Weekly reported.

The reason for the title change is “search expansion for ticket sites,” a studio representative told the Verge.

The twisted antihero Harley Quinn, as played by Margot Robbie, was the breakout character of 2016’s “Suicide Squad,” so it was always a curious choice to market her spinoff under the team-up title. “Birds of Prey” introduces fellow fighters Huntress, Black Canary, Renee Montoya and Cassandra Cain, but it is very much Harley Quinn’s film.

“Birds of Prey” grossed only $33 million in its domestic debut, well below the studio’s conservative projections of about $45 million — and the lowest opening for any movie in the DC Extended Universe. The film, directed by Cathy Yan, also grossed only $48 million overseas.

That global total of $81 million barely tops even the lowest estimates of the film’s budget, before marketing and distribution fees.

By comparison, the PG-13 “Suicide Squad,” which featured the Joker (Jared Leto), had a domestic debut of $133 million.

“Birds of Prey” is rated R, which could prove to be another commercial misstep given Harley Quinn’s many tween fans.

“Birds” received mixed to positive reviews, sitting at 80 percent “fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 60 on Metacritic and a B-plus CinemaScore.

The studio has not returned a Washington Post request for comment about the title change.

Only infrequently does a film get a new title after release. Among the more notable examples, “Star Wars” became “Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope” several years after the original 1977 film debuted in theaters; and in 2014, the Tom Cruise-starring film “Edge of Tomorrow” became “Live Die Repeat” (previously the tagline) for its digital release from Warner Bros.

The box-office results of “Birds” dampened a weekend in which the studio’s “Joker” won two Oscars, including for Joaquin Phoenix’s win for best actor, in a ceremony where Robbie was a nominee for best supporting actress for “Bombshell.”

Warner Bros. must now hope that the rebranded “Harley Quinn” has a more impressive weekend than “Birds of Prey” did — and look to this summer’s “Wonder Woman 1984,” the first sequel to the box-office smash directed by Patty Jenkins that put the DCEU on firmer footing.

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