Mukul Sharma


When the film “Birds of Prey” was released on 07 Feb 2020, trade pundits projected it to gross $50 to $55 million during the opening weekend in the US and Canadian markets. Warner Bros, the distributors of the film had their own projection pegged at $45 million. However, It could muster only $33 million. 

So what went wrong? Why did they lose almost $22 million over just the opening weekend?  The reason is not far to find – the sharp marketing minds at Warner Bros. missed an essential trick in today’s online world. They did not take into account Search Engine Optimisation or “SEO” – in their film title.

The full title of the film shows up as “Birds of Prey  (And The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)”. Notice how the main keyword “Harley Quinn” is placed at the very end. Certain ticket sites did not display the title in full, thus making the search difficult.

The film was promoted on social and other media with its main character Harley Quinn, the DC Comics superhero, as the centrepiece. Now – Harley Quinn is an icon – and has a loyal fan base. Audiences naturally searched for the Harley Quinn movie on ticket booking sites and were baffled. They were unable to connect the film to their favourite superhero. The title “Birds of Prey” led to confusion.

To put it straight, the team at Warner Bros. failed to realise that Harley Quinn is a very strong and relevant search keyword, whereas Birds of Prey is a generic phrase with limited online content. After contemplating the reasons for low footfalls at theatres screening their film, they decided to re-name the movie as “Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey” on 10 Feb 2020. Certainly a title appropriate for SEO. 

A Warner Bros. representative told an online magazine “The Verge” that the name change is a step for “search expansion for ticket sites” to make it easier for viewers to find the movie. 

With almost every conceivable commodity being sold online, it has become imperative for businesses to prioritise SEO in their must-do lists. 

We are in the middle of a workweek when the daily collections are traditionally low, irrespective of the film’s calibre. Monday’s collection for the film was a mere $2.2 million. It will be interesting to follow the collection graph for the upcoming weekend to know the effects of a now SEO optimized title on ticket sales.

Follow us on social media to get an update on the sales figures post the title change.


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