Box Office: Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore Conjuring Franchise-Low Opening Weekend

While the domestic box office is showing signs of life after an age of COVID lockdowns, it seems that not every film franchise is being buoyed by a return of theatergoers. “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore,” Warner Bros.’ latest entry in its prequel series to the “Harry Potter” franchise, is off to a somewhat rocky start, projected to land a record low debut for a Wizarding World film.

The third “Fantastic Beasts” earned $20.1 million on Friday and Thursday night previews from 4,753 North American locations, which marks the lowest opening day figure for a “Potter”-adjacent film. Industry analysts project a three-day opening in the neighborhood of $40 million, with some opportunity for upside.

That’s not exactly the most disastrous result for a theatrical release in 2022, but it’s a disappointing opening for a film franchise that’s supposed to behave like a box office juggernaut. “Secrets of Dumbledore” carries a hefty $200 million production budget, ballooned by COVID-related delays and safety costs. Warner Bros. will have to look to international audiences to give the wizarding sequel a thriving run.

The opening for “Secrets of Dumbledore” continues a downward trend for the “Fantastic Beasts” series. The first 2016 entry drew a domestic opening of $74 million, while its 2018 sequel, “The Crimes of Grindelwald,” fell to a $62 million debut. While one could forgive “Secrets of Dumbledore” as a victim of a theatrical landscape that isn’t at its pre-pandemic strength, things aren’t quite that simple. Plenty of sequels released in the past few months have landed bigger debuts than their predecessors, such as “Venom: Let There Be Carnage,” “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and last week’s “Sonic the Hedgehog 2.” It seems that “Fantastic Beasts” doesn’t spark that level of enthusiasm in moviegoers.

Once a promising opportunity to spin further box office gold from the “Potter” name, “Fantastic Beasts” has turned into a headache for Warner Bros. “Potter” author and franchise scribe J.K. Rowling has faced widespread criticism from the LGBTQIA+ community for her statements on sex and gender identity. And since the 2018 sequel, Warner Bros. has recast the role of the villainous Grindelwald with Mads Mikkelsen, removing original actor Johnny Depp as the actor entered a controversy surrounding domestic abuse allegations. With box office numbers continuing to slip, the studio may have to rethink how it approaches the Wizarding World moving forward.

Directed by franchise regular David Yates, “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” sees Jude Law returning as beloved Hogwarts leader Albus Dumbledore and Eddie Redmayne reprising his role as magizoologist Newt Scamander. Ezra Miller, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Callum Turner and Jessica Williams also star.

In his review of the film, Variety‘s chief film critic Peter Debruge called “Secrets of Dumbledore” “vastly improved” with Mikkelsen involved, writing that “devotees will likely adore the revelations in store, including a deeper commitment to the tragic love story between beloved Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore and the wizard determined to settle a score with Muggle-kind.” Other critics haven’t been as kind; the film holds a 49% aggregate approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Ticket buyers seem to be more receptive, bestowing “Fantastic Beasts 3” a “B+” rating on CinemaScore.

More to come…

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