For ‘Fantastic Beasts’ series, a case of diminishing returns

“Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” got off to a less-than-magical start in its first weekend in US and Canadian theaters. The third installment in the Harry Potter spin-off opened on Sunday for $43 million in North America, according to studio estimates.

It was enough to give the film the top spot on the box office charts, but it’s also a low point for the franchise. The first film had a $74.4 million debut in 2016 and the second, “The Crimes of Grindelwald,” opened for $62.2 million in 2018. “The Secrets of Dumbledore”, which Warner Bros. released in 4,208 locations in North America, it also carries a $200 million production price tag.

It’s more common for sequels and threequels to come in lower than their predecessors, but “Dumbledore” also follows several franchise titles that defy that logic, including “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” “Venom 2” and “Sonic the Hedgehog 2.”

Critics largely weren’t on board with “Dumbledore.” With a rating of 49% on Rotten Tomatoes, most came on the negative side. AP film writer Jake Coyle wrote in his review that “the purpose of these films has never felt much more than to keep the Potter train going” and that this iteration is “a bit boring”. The audience, which was 56% female, was a bit friendlier, earning it four stars on PostTrak and an overall B+ CinemaScore.

The eight Harry Potter films were responsible for more than $7.7 billion at the box office, while the first two “Fantastic Beasts” films grossed a total of $1.5 billion.

This episode stars Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law, Ezra Miller and Mads Mikkelsen, who replaced Johnny Depp as Grindelwald. In November 2020, following Depp’s botched libel suit against The Sun tabloid newspaper for an article calling him a “wife beater,” the actor said Warner Bros. asked him to resign and that he agreed.

As with previous ‘Fantastic Beasts’ films, ‘Dumbledore’ has more hope internationally. Grossing is $193 million worldwide. Both previous films made more than 70% of their worldwide total from international screenings.

“Reclaiming the original ‘Harry Potter’ magic that began in movie theaters some 20 years ago is a daunting task,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore. “The ‘Fantastic Beasts’ franchise, while its revenue is declining with each installment, still has enough devoted fans to garner respectable numbers, especially among the international audience that has always provided the lion’s share of the box office for these films.”

Dergarabedian added that the real test for “Dumbledore” will be the second weekend.

Also, as Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros.’s head of domestic distribution, noted, the movies are just one part of the Wizarding World.

“It’s part of a larger strategy for the Wizarding World, a larger company with theme parks and retail and merchandising. It’s all about the totality of these pieces and not one by itself,” Goldstein said. “There is still a lot of public interest and a lot of interest from fans.”

In addition, Warner Bros. a big milestone for a new movie: “The Batman” has crossed $750 million worldwide this weekend.

“It’s a huge achievement,” Goldstein said.

On its second weekend, “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” fell 58%, earning an estimated $30 million to take second place, according to Paramount. The film has grossed $119.6 million to date. Third place also went to Paramount with the action-adventure “The Lost City”, starring Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum.

Sony also released “Father Stu” on 2,705 locations on Wednesday. Starring Mark Wahlberg, who helped finance the film, “Father Stu” is based on a true story and is a rare mainstream Hollywood film with religious themes. It earned an estimated $8 million in its first five days in theaters and $5.7 million over the weekend.

“Father Stu” finished in fifth place behind “Everything Everywhere All At Once”, A24’s stealth hit that just keeps getting bigger. This weekend, the vibrant interdimensional film starring Michelle Yeoh starred on 2,220 screens — its biggest release to date — earning an additional $6.2 million. The total gross sits at $17.7 million.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday in U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. The final domestic figures will be announced on Monday.

1. “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore,” $43 million.

2. “Sonic the Hedgehog 2”, $30 million.

3. “The Lost City”, $6.5 million.

4. “Everything Everywhere at Once,” $6.2 million.

5. “Father Stu,” $5.7 million.

6. “Morbius”, $4.7 million.

7. “Ambulance,” $4 million.

8. “The Batman”, $3.8 million.

9. “KGF: Chapter 2”, $2.9 million.

10. “Uncharted”, $1.2 million.

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