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‘Birds of Prey’ Teaser Debut Follows ‘Tenet’ as Warner Bros. Champions Theater-Only Trailers

Are we about to enter an era of theatrical-only teaser trailers? Warner Bros. is making the first push.

"Birds of Prey"

“Birds of Prey”

Warner Bros.

Trailer releases have become all too predictable in 2019. First, a studio rolls out a 15-30 second trailer teaser on social media announcing when the actual trailer is set to debut online, then the trailer drops that day as advertised before being put in theaters ahead of new releases. The main takeaway here is that online premieres are the norm for trailers in 2019, which is why Warner Bros.’ trailer releases for “Tenet” and “Birds of Prey” are so noteworthy. Both films have received buzzy first trailers this year but neither one is being put online for mass consumption.

The first trailer for Cathy Yan’s “Birds of Prey” is launching in theaters this weekend ahead of Warner Bros.’ horror tentpole “It Chapter Two.” The comic book movie, which finds Margot Robbie reprising her “Suicide Squad” role of Harley Quinn, is one of the studio’s major 2020 tentpoles. The film’s high profile nature would lead some to think Warner Bros. would go wide with the trailer, but Variety confirms the first “Birds of Prey” teaser will be seen exclusively in theaters. Furthermore, the “Birds of Prey” teaser has been designed as something of a companion to “It Chapter Two.”

The “Birds of Prey” teaser begins with the Warner Bros. logo and the same music that is heard in the “It” horror franchise. Red balloons, a staple of the “It” films, begin floating across the scene to create what feels like a trailer for another “It” movie. Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn enters the frame to pop the balloons and boast, “I’m so fucking over clowns.” The line is a nod to both “It” clown Pennywise and the Joker, Harley Quinn’s ex-boyfriend played by Jared Leto in “Suicide Squad.”

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The teaser then cuts to a quick montage of action beats featuring Harley, Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), and Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), all set to “Heads Will Roll” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The movie follows the aforementioned comic book characters as they team up to save Cassandra Cain (Jay Basco) from the villainous Black Mask (Ewan McGregor). Chris Messina also stars as Mr. Zsasz. The teaser tagline reads: “Gotham will never the same.” The movie opens February 7, 2020.

The theatrical-only “Birds of Prey” teaser release follows the same strategy used by Warner Bros. to rollout the first footage from Christopher Nolan’s 2020 action epic “Tenet.” The nearly one-minute “Tenet” teaser debuted exclusively before select screenings of “Hobbs & Shaw” at the beginning of August and was never uploaded online. The one difference between the trailers is that, as previously mentioned, the “Birds of Prey” teaser has been designed specifically for a debut ahead of “It Chapter Two.” Many comic book movie fans expect a more traditional “Birds of Prey” trailer to debut in time for the “Joker” theatrical release.

“Tenet” and “Birds of Prey” are two of Warner Bros.’ biggest 2020 tentpoles, so it’s quite significant the studio has taken a theaters-only approach to releasing the first teaser trailers for each movie. By eschewing online streaming debuts, the trailer release strategies have bolstered buzz for the theatrical releases of the movies they are attached to (“It Chapter Two” and Universal’s “Hobbs & Shaw”). Christopher Nolan has long championed the theatrical experience over streaming, so it was hardly a surprise the “Tenet” teaser went the theaters-only route. That Warner Bros. is repeating the rollout with “Birds of Prey” (and designing the trailer exclusively to play with the “It” sequel in theaters) further opens the door for theatrical-only trailers in the future.

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