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Cinema

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 U.S. and Canadian theaters. The third installment in the Harry Potter spinoff opened to $43 million in North America, according to studio estimates Sunday.

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

It’s more common than not for sequels and threequels to come in lower than their predecessors, but “Dumbledore” also follows several franchise titles that defied that logic, including “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” “Venom 2” and “Sonic the Hedgehog 2.”

This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Jessica Williams in a scene from “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore.” (Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)

Critics were largely not on board with “Dumbledore.” With a 49% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, most came in on the negative side. AP Film Writer Jake Coyle wrote in his review that “the purpose of these movies has never felt like much beyond keeping the Potter train running” and that this iteration is “a bit of a bore.” Audiences, which were 56% female, were a little kinder, giving it four stars on PostTrak and an overall B+ CinemaScore.

The eight Harry Potter films were responsible for over $7.7 billion in box office, while the first two “Fantastic Beasts” films made $1.5 billion total.

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

This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Ezra Miller in a scene from “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore.” (Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)

As with previous “Fantastic Beasts” films, however, “Dumbledore” has more hope internationally. Its grosses are $193 million worldwide. Both of the previous films made over 70% of their global totals from international showings.

“Recapturing the original ‘Harry Potter’ magic that began some 20 years ago in cinemas is a tall order,” said Paul Dergarabedian, the senior media analyst for Comscore. “The ‘Fantastic Beasts’ franchise, while seeing diminishing returns with each successive installment, still has enough of a devoted fanbase to conjure up respectable numbers particularly with international audiences which have always provided the lion’s share of the box office for these films.”

In its second weekend, “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” fell 58% and earned an estimated $30 million, according to Paramount. The film has grossed $119.6 million to date.

Sony also released “Father Stu” in 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 movie with religious themes. It earned an estimated $8 million in its first five days in theaters.

 

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