Why ‘Fantastic Beasts 3’ Could Underwhelm at the Box Office

  • Box-office projections for “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” are underwhelming.
  • It’s likely to continue the series’ downward trajectory at the box office.
  • The movie debuts amid fresh controversy and wanting interest in the franchise.

“Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore,” Warner Bros.’ third movie in its Harry Potter prequel series, hits theaters this weekend amid fresh controversy and tapid box-office projections.

Controversy isn’t new to the “Fantastic Beasts” movies.

After actor Johnny Depp lost a libel case against the UK newspaper The Sun in 2020, Warner Bros. replaced him with Mads Mikkelsen as the series’ villain, Grindelwald, which Depp played in the first two installments.

A Sun column published in 2018 had called Depp a “wife beater,” referring to his ex-wife, actress Amber Heard, accusing him of abuse in 2016 (which Depp has denied). The UK’s High Court sided with The Sun.

Harry Potter creator JK Rowling’s anti-trans comments have also loomed over the “Fantastic Beasts” movies.

Now “The Secrets of Dumbledore” will look to overcome these obstacles at the box office this weekend, even as it faces new controversies.

  • Ezra Miller, who plays Credence Barebone in the movies, was recently arrested in Hawaii for disorderly conduct and harassment, which prompted Warner Bros. to reevaluate its relationship with Miller and potentially pause future projects involving the actor, Rolling Stone reported.
  • Warner Bros. removed six seconds from the movie in China, at the request of the China Film Administration, to scrub dialogue that referenced Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s romantic past.

Box-office projections for “The Secrets of Dumbledore” are lukewarm. It earned $6 million in Thursday previews, below the $9 million that the previous entry earned on its first Thursday.

Box Office Pro’s chief analyst Shawn Robbins is projecting it to earn $44 million in the US this weekend, which would be well below the first two entry’s opening weekends. It would also be the worst opening for a Potter-verse film.

  • 2016’s “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” earned $74 million in its debut. It ultimately made $234 million in the US and $814 million worldwide.
  • 2018’s “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” made $62 million in its opening, and eventually $159 million in the US. Its global total was $654 million.

Each “Beasts” has cost nearly $200 million to produce. If the series keeps going on this downward trajectory, it’s bad news for future entries (it was initially slated to be a five-movie series).

Robbins noted that early international box office is down from the previous movies, including in the UK, which he called “a telling sign for a franchise that typically generates close to three-quarters of its worldwide box office outside North America.”

“Domestically, we should expect the negative trends to hold up,” Robbins wrote. “‘Dumbledore’s’ pre-sales window began softly, picked up pace a few weeks ago, and then flattened in recent days as the extension of interest outside fans doesn’t seem to be igniting in a significant way.”

The overall US box office is up a significant 391% compared to this time last year, as studios release movies to theaters more consistently (though the theatrical calendar is still lacking compared to pre-pandemic years).

But the theatrical market is still recovering from the pandemic, and moviegoers seem to be more selective about what they spend money on.

Michael Bay’s action movie “Ambulance” disappointed in its debut last weekend as it went up against “Sonic the Hedgehog 2.” Sony’s latest Marvel movie, “Morbius,” dropped a dramatic 74% in its second weekend compared to its debut amid a poor word of mouth.

“Secrets of Dumbledore” faces similar issues. It’s received poor reviews from critics and has a 51% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes. And “Sonic 2” is expected to have a strong hold at the box office, with Robbins, the Box Office Pro chief analyst, projecting it to drop just 50% with $36 million.

Leave a Comment