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A case of diminishing returns for ‘Fantastic Beasts’ series

Lindsey Bahr

AP – Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore got off to a less than magical start in its first weekend in US and Canadian theatres. The third installment in the Harry Potter spinoff opened to USD43 million in North America, according to studio estimates on 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 USD74.4 million debut in 2016 and the second, The Crimes of Grindelwald opened to USD62.2 million in 2018.

The Secrets of Dumbledore, which Warner Bros released in 4,208 locations in North America, also carries a USD200 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. Critics were largely not on board with Dumbledore.

With a 49 per cent 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.”

This image released by Warner Bros shows, from left, Dan Fogler, Jessica Williams, Eddie Redmayne and Callum Turner in a scene from ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore’. PHOTO: AP

Audiences, which were 56 per cent 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 USD7.7 billion in box office, while the first two Fantastic Beasts films made USD1.5 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 labelled him a “wife beater,” the actor said Warner Bros asked him to step down and that he agreed.

As with previous Fantastic Beasts films, however, Dumbledore has more hope internationally. Its grosses are USD193 million worldwide. Both of the previous films made over 70 per cent 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 the senior media analyst for Comscore Paul Dergarabedian.

“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.”

Dergarabedian added that the true test for Dumbledore will be the second weekend.