for the “Fantastic Beasts” series, a case of diminishing returns | Entertainment News

By LINDSEY BAHR, AP Screenwriter

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

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

It’s more common than not for sequels and all three sequels to be inferior to 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.”

Critics largely disagreed with “Dumbledore”. With a 49% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, most are negative. AP Film Writer Jake Coyle wrote in his review that “the purpose of these films never seemed much beyond running the Potter train” and that this iteration is “a bit boring”. The audience, which was 56% female, was a little nicer, awarding it four stars on PostTrak and an overall B+ CinemaScore.

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The eight Harry Potter films have grossed over $7.7 billion at the box office, while the first two “Fantastic Beasts” movies have grossed $1.5 billion in total.

This episode 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 tabloid The Sun over an article calling him a “wife beater”, the actor said Warner Bros. had asked him to resign and that he had accepted.

As with previous “Fantastic Beasts” films, however, “Dumbledore” has more hope internationally. Its receipts are $193 million worldwide. The previous two films made over 70% of their worldwide totals from international screenings.

“Recovering the original ‘Harry Potter’ magic that began in theaters some 20 years ago is a tall order,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Comscore. “The ‘Fantastic Beasts’ franchise, while seeing diminishing returns with each successive installment, still has enough dedicated fans to conjure up respectable numbers, especially from an 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.

Plus, as Jeff Goldstein, head of national distribution for Warner Bros., pointed out, movies are only part of the wizarding world.

“It’s part of a larger strategy for the Wizarding World, a bigger business that includes theme parks, stores and merchandising. This is all of these pieces and not just one,” Goldstein said. “There’s always a lot of public interest and a lot of fan interest.”

Additionally, Warner Bros. celebrates a milestone for another movie: “The Batman” crossed $750 million worldwide this weekend.

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

In its second weekend, “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” dropped 58% and earned around $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” in 2,705 slots 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 grossed around $8 million in its first five days in theaters and $5.7 million over the weekend.

“Father Stu” came in at number five behind A24’s ever-growing stealth hit “Everything Everywhere All At Once.” This weekend, the animated interdimensional movie starring Michelle Yeoh played on 2,220 screens — its widest release yet — and grossed an additional $6.2 million. Its overall gross is $17.7 million.

Estimated Friday-Sunday ticket sales at US and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Final national figures will be released on Monday.

1. ‘Fantastic Beasts: Dumbledore’s Secrets’, $43 million.

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

3. “The Lost City,” $6.5 million.

4. “Everything, everywhere, all at once”, $6.2 million.

5. “Father Stu,” $5.7 million.

6. “Morbius,” $4.7 million.

7. “Ambulance”, 4 million dollars.

8. “The Batman,” $3.8 million.

9. “KGF: Chapter 2”, $2.9 million.

10. “Uncharted,” $1.2 million.

Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr

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