Birds of Prey, the DC Comics' Harley Quinn spin-off, made a tepid debut in US cinemas over the weekend, opening in No. 1 but below expectations with $49.5 million, according to studio estimates.

The less-than-expected opening has reportedly led to a hasty name change for the film: Originally titled Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), the film is now going by Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey, an unprecedented last-minute change for a film already in cinemas.

Despite the fact Margot Robbie is one of Hollywood's most talked-about stars right now – on Monday she fronted up to the Oscars, where she was nominated for her second Academy Award – the film came in for a rocky landing. It had been expected to open around $75 million. It fared similarly overseas, grossing an estimated $71 million from 78 international markets.

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Warner Bros. said the coronavirus impacted sales in Asia, though in South Korea, where Birds of Prey made $2.8 million, it came in second to a local release. Birds of Prey doesn't have a China release scheduled, and Suicide Squad never opened there. Cinemas in the country, the world's second largest movie market, have shut down amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Birds of Prey cost approximately $150 million to make. Cathy Yan directs the Suicide Squad spin-off, which Robbie also produced. Robbie stars as Quinn, the crazed criminal who after splitting with Joker is a solo vigilante. Reviews were mostly favourable, with an 80 per cent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences gave it a B-plus CinemaScore.


Margot Robbie starred in and also produced the film. Photo / Getty Images
Margot Robbie starred in and also produced the film. Photo / Getty Images

In her review,'s Wenlei Ma wrote that Birds of Prey "manages to both feel so big and yet not quite big enough".

"While it could have cohered better or it could have really, really committed to being properly bonkers or rageful, Birds Of Prey is mostly fun, snappy and entertaining – in other words, it's OK," she said, awarding the film three stars out of five.

- with AP