Five years after the final Harry Potter movie, Warner Bros. is looking to keep its $7.7 billion franchise alive for continued generations with its spinoff series Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Opening stateside and in 63 offshore territories sans China and Japan, Fantastic Beasts is hoping to cast a spell over Warner Bros.’ coffers and bank $160M-$205M worldwide in its first weekend per industry estimates. Broken out that’s $70M-$80M in 4,000-plus U.S./Canada locations and another $90M-$125M overseas.
Despite its high production cost of $180M, rivals believe this is a good start for Fantastic Beasts despite falling short of the $90M-plus domestic openings of five of the eight Harry Potter movies. Warner Bros. is betting big on this period film which stars a slew of critically acclaimed and award-winning actors that upscale audiences know–Eddie Redmayne, Colin Farrell, Katherine Waterson and Jon Voight– as the start of a new five-title franchise which will span storywise from 1926 to 1945. Many expect Fantastic Beasts to play and play throughout Thanksgiving and into next month until Disney shows up with its spinoff movie Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on Dec. 16.
We need to remember that Fantastic Beasts is a spinoff movie franchise, slightly similar to what The Hobbit was gross-wise to Lord of the Rings. Although Hobbit titles largely improved upon The Lord of the Rings’ three-day debuts (arguably an apples-to-oranges comparison since all three LOTR were five-day openers), in the end, no one Hobbit title exceeded the domestic runs of an LOTR title. Despite Warner Bros. promoting the new movie in its marketing as “Explore a New Era of J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World,” the lower than Potter-projected opening for Fantastic Beasts can also be attributed to the fact that the pic isn’t based on a multi-global bestselling book series, rather was inspired by Harry Potter’s textbook in the first 2001 movie The Sorcerer’s Stone. It was published by Scholastic in the U.S. in sync with the first movie and is a chronicle of various magical creatures observed by its fictional author Newt Scamander across five continents. Rowling’s script takes inspiration from the fictitious book and follows Newt’s arrival in New York City in 1926, 70 years before Potter reads his book, as he faces Gotham’s community of witches and wizards as he unleashes something special from his luggage.
Here’s the potential upside: Fantastic Beasts currently has a 94% Rotten Tomatoes rating from 30 reviews and if it can keep that grade up, it’s not crazy to think it could hit $100M at the domestic B.O. As we saw with Arrival last weekend, critics assisted in pushing that movie’s tracking projections of $15M to a $24M FSS reality. This November’s holdover champs Disney/Marvel’s Doctor Strange and DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls are expected to slow by -50% in their third outing no thanks to Fantastic Beasts, respectively grossing $21.5M and $17.5M. Those daring to counterprogram Fantastic Beasts are Open Road’s Bleed for This starring Miles Teller as Rhode Island world champ boxer Vinny Paz. It’s going after older males in a moderate number of 1,500 houses with an eye at $5M start. Previews start Thursday night. Bleed for This Rotten Tomatoes score is at 71% fresh. And for those who are too cool for Fantastic Beasts, STX Entertainment has their R-rated teen comedy Edge of Seventeen which industry estimates peg at $8M over three days in an estimated 1,900 venues. The film cost $10M before P&A and it currently carries a 90% Rotten Tomatoes rating. TriStar/Studio 8’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk expands to 1,100-plus theaters on Friday after collecting the year’s third best opening theater average of $56K at the Hollywood Arclight and AMC Lincoln Square in NYC. Paramount’s Arrival is forecasted to ease -45% (essentially some rivals are pondering how much that B CinemaScore will have on the film) for $13.2M, while Universal’s Almost Christmas will continue to be a destination for African American audiences after the demo turned up at 61% per PostTrak last weekend. The Will Packer production is looking to dip -40% with $9M.
Fantastic Beasts will aim to hook the kids early on Thursday night here in the states at 6 PM shows assisted by all the magical powers of Imax, PLF, D-box, while the furry creatures begin their descent abroad on tomorrow, notably led by majors France and Korea. David Yates, who helmed the last four Harry Potter movies directs, while Rowling produces with the franchise’s vets David Heyman, Steve Kloves and Lionel Wigram.
The main comps on Fantastic Beasts include Sorcerer’s Stone, along with such derivative works as The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and Disney’s Maleficent and The Jungle Book. Here’s an interesting fact: Sorcerer’s Stone was the biggest grosser of the franchise internationally with $657M until 2010’s Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 1 overtook it with $664.3M.
The UK and Japan have been the lead markets for the Potter franchise with the latter often outperforming Harry’s home-base Britain. Japan opens next week, but coming after a long run for a local title and with solid reviews, Fantastic Beasts will look to tap into the fervent fan following there.
Maleficent topped out at $517M overseas and was likewise a smash in Japan, its lead market at $63.3M. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey ($718M intl) played strongly in Europe and China. The Jungle Book ($602.5M intl) saw its best offshore swing in China at $150M. On Fantastic Beasts, it will be important to bear in mind big shifts in offshore currency rates since those films released.
Reviews have been glowing in the UK where The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw writes, “That entertainment enchanter JK Rowling has come storming back to the world of magic in a shower of supernatural sparks – and created a glorious fantasy-romance adventure.”
Even though Fantastic Beasts is an entirely separate property to the West End stage play, Harry Potter And The Cursed Child, the dovetail of this film’s release with the success of the show can only help – even if it was not by design.
The critically lauded play takes place after the events of the final Potter film, whereas Fantastic Beasts is a prequel set some 70 years before Harry first comes out from the cabinet under the stairs in Privet Drive. But the awareness of the play, combined with the book of its script which has been a bestseller in myriad territories, surely had a hand in refreshing Potter mania and could build into the anticipation for Fantastic Beasts. The marketing was kept wholly separate with no cross-over; Warner Bros is not involved in the play.
Not that the film would have needed the boost. Potter fans are among the most loyal of any franchise and new youngsters have constantly discovered the wizard-verse over the past several years. Another serendipitous twist: the Wizarding World at Universal Studios in Los Angeles opened this year, catering to tourists from around the globe.
Fantastic Beasts had its world premiere in New York last week and currently today is taking over London’s Leicester Square before the team including Redmayne heads to Beijing.
As for China, also debuting next week, Potter is a force there. CriEnglish recently reported that ever since People’s Literature Publishing House first imported the initial three titles in the Potter book series, nearly 20M copies have been sold in simplified Chinese. Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2 made nearly $61M in the Middle Kingdom, well before the blockbuster box office era hit that market.