Box Office: ‘Fantastic Beasts 3’ Collapses With Mere $20 Million Friday

Box Office: ‘Fantastic Beasts 3’ Collapses With Mere $20 Million Friday

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(L-R) JESSICA WILLIAMS as Eulalie “Lally” Hicks, CALLUM TURNER as Theseus Scamander, JUDE LAW as Albus Dumbledore, FIONNA GLASCOTT as Minerva McGonagall, DAN FOGLER as Jacob Kowalski and EDDIE REDMAYNE as Newt Scamander in Warner Bros. Pictures’ fantasy adventure “FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE SECRETS OF DUMBLEDORE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

© 2021 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved

As frankly predicted for 3.5 years, Fantastic Beasts has run out of gas on the third go-around. The Secrets of Dumbledore opened at number one at the domestic box office yesterday, with just $20.1 million. That includes $6 million in Thursday previews, a sharp decline from Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (a $26 million Friday from a $9.2 million Thursday) and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (a $29 million Friday from an $8.7 million Thursday). We’re looking at a $44-$49 million opening weekend for the $200 million (partially due to Covid-related expenses) Wizarding World sequel, compared to $74 million in November 2016 and $62 million in November 2018. With a B+ from Cinemascore (the same as Crimes of Grindelwald, but Where to Find Them earned an A), this one is likely to play like Godzilla: King of the Monsters ($110 million from a $48 million debut in May of 2019).

With mixed-negative reviews (49% rotten and 5.5/10 on Rotten Tomatoes), deep displeasure with the previous plot/mythology-heavy sequel and years of online controversy over JK Rowling’s (arguably) transphobic commentary, Johnny Depp’s controversial casting (months after allegations of domestic abuse) and eventual replacement (after losing a U.K. libel suit over those allegations) and Ezra Miller’s brushes with the law, the only thing this installment had to offer was nostalgia for Harry Potter (including a more central role for Jude Law as younger Dumbledore) and curiosity about Mads Mikkelsen portraying Grindelwald. As we saw with The Divergent Series ($150 million in 2014, $131 million in 2015 and then $67 million in 2016), the Terminator reboot attempts ($125 million in 2009, $90 million in 2015 and then $62 million in 2019) and the rebooted X-Men series ($146 million in 2011, $155 million in 2016 and then $66 million in 2019), it was three strikes and you’re out for Fantastic Beasts.

To be fair, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them debuted in late 2016 with solid reviews, strong word of mouth, long legs ($234 million from a $74 million debut) and a whopping $814 million worldwide cume. Even Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald earned $655 million worldwide on a $200 million budget, with a drop of just 15% overseas but the real comedown occurring in North America ($155 million from a $62 million debut). However unlikely, even in non-Covid circumstances, it was possible that the JK Rowling-penned Wizarding World prequel series would maintain overseas interest. It was possible that the final three films would average a halfway decent over/under $550 million worldwide apiece. Moreover, Warner Bros. knew it couldn’t monetize an unfinished franchise, so it had to make at least one more A) to give the story something resembling an ending and B) roll in the dice in case pessimistic pundits like me were wrong.

Alas, Secrets of Dumbledore opened with just $58 million overseas last weekend, compared to $115 million and $120 million for its predecessors. China was a lost cause (with a likely $20 million total) even before Covid closed 51% of their theaters and China comparatively lost interest in most Hollywood flicks beginning in 2019. Where to Find Them earned $86 million in China while Crimes of Grindelwald earned $53 million, partially because (as seen by lightning-fast descents for Detective Chinatown 3 and F9) China doesn’t like franchise-building/retcon-heavy/plot-over-character mythology any more than Americans do. Moreover, just because they showed up for X-Men: Apocalypse ($121 million) and Terminator: Genisys ($113 million) doesn’t mean they will show up for X-Men: Dark Phoenix ($59 million) and Terminator: Dark Fate ($50 million). Ironically, a possible (ask me again tomorrow as the film will be playing essentially everywhere worldwide) over/under $300 million finish would be almost decent by Covid standards.

Starring Mark Wahlberg (who put up some of his own money to get the film over the finish line during its Covid-era shoot), Mel Gibson, Jackie Weaver and Teresa Ruiz, Sony’s Father Stu concerns a true story about a down-on-his-luck boxer who became an inspirational priest. Written and directed by Rosalind Ross (who, trivia alert, has been Mel Gibson’s girlfriend since 2014), the film received mixed-negative reviews and earned just $2.3 million heading into the weekend. Alas, $1.64 million on Friday points toward an Easter-enhanced $4.5 million Fri-Sun/$6.9 million Wed-Sun domestic debut. The second coming of Miracles from Heaven ($62 million in 2016), War Room ($68 million in 2015) or Heaven is For Real ($91 million in 2014) this is not. K.G.F: Chapter 2 earned around $1.02 million in 820 theaters for a likely $4.7 million opening weekend (with $37 million worldwide thus far). Beast will earn $470,000 in 368 theaters as RRR nears $140 million global.

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