Earlier this week it was reported by a number of media outlets that Margot Robbie’s DC Comics film Birds of Prey and The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn had been retitled by Warner Bros. in the wake of its poor opening weekend box office.
CNN, The Independent, and Metro were among the outlets to publish stories that said the film had been retitled “Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey” after the film debuted to a disappointing $33 million (£25 million) in North America. It’s the lowest opening for a film based on a DC Comic property since Jonah Hex posted $5.4 million in its opening weekend of 2010.
The name change was said to have been mandated by the studio in order to raise awareness of Harley Quinn’s involvement in the film, suggesting that Birds of Prey lacked the same level of brand awareness with casual punters. And to a certain extent it’s true: most major North American cinema chains including Regal, AMC, Cinemark and Marcus are using Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey in their listings online, ticketing apps, and on marquees.
Read more: Why Birds of Prey failed to take flight
However, industry paper Deadline says the film’s title hasn’t been changed at all, and that all marketing for the film still retains the full title: Birds of Prey and The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn.
Instead, the report explains that “a display change was suggested to exhibitors by Warner Bros. distribution to help with SEO (search engine) optimisations, searches and ticket reader boards.”
In the UK, only Odeon is listing the film with its new search engine optimised-title, with Cineworld and Picturehouse’s sites opting for just Birds of Prey, and Vue going for the full Birds of Prey and The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn.
Alisha Grauso, a representative for US ticket seller Atom Tickets tweeted that the change is for “display/search purposes only”.
It wouldn’t be unprecedented for films to be retitled post-release. 2014’s Tom Cruise thriller Edge of Tomorrow was renamed Live, Die, Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow when it came to DVD, while Paul Feig’s 2016 Ghostbusters became Ghostbusters: Answer The Call for its home entertainment release.
Most famously, George Lucas renamed Star Wars as Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope in 1981 when it was rereleased into cinemas,
Birds of Prey, or whatever you choose to call it, is in cinemas now.