Fantastic Beasts 3's box office might not be enough to save the series

·5-min read
Photo credit: Warner Bros.
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore had a lot riding on it after the relatively lukewarm reception given to The Crimes of Grindelwald.

The sequel made $655 million at the global box office, but that marked a significant drop on the first movie's $814 million haul and the lowest total for a Wizarding World movie. The Crimes of Grindelwald also struggled with critics and fans as it was, essentially, a two-hour setup for the three planned movies to come.

So the new movie already had to right the ship before it even had to deal with numerous behind-the-scenes challenges. Whether it was the recasting of Johnny Depp, the release-date changes or the backlash against creator JK Rowling's tweets about gender, there was always something going on.

The Secrets of Dumbledore finally landed in cinemas on April 8 in the UK and a week later in the US. It was received (slightly) better by critics with 47% on Rotten Tomatoes and the audience rating ended up higher (84%) than even the first Fantastic Beasts movie.

However, has the threequel done enough to salvage the franchise or could this really be the end? Let's delve into the box-office numbers.

Photo credit: Warner Bros.
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

As of April 24, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore stands at $280 million worldwide with $212.9 million taken overseas. After two weeks in play, it stands at only $67.1 million in the US after a steep 67% drop in its second weekend.

Harry Potter movies have always been stronger overseas at the box office, but the threequel's domestic take is still low by the franchise's standards. It could end up being the only Potter movie to not take $100 million at the US box office and even if it does scrape past that milestone, it'll still be way down on the sequel's $159.6 million domestic result.

There's a release in the UAE coming up this week, but otherwise, the movie has been released in every major market. It means there's not a bumper debut to come that could change the perspective of its box-office performance to date.

According to estimates on Forbes, The Secrets of Dumbledore could get to $400 million worldwide, which would be fine... for most movies. With a reported budget of $200 million, it's not the kind of result that will give Warner Bros confidence that the fanbase is there for two further movies.

Photo credit: Warner Bros.
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

Yes, there are still challenges in the market due to the ongoing global pandemic, but other movies have shown that it is possible to be a big hit. The Batman has crossed $750 million worldwide, while Spider-Man: No Way Home swung to $1.89 billion to become the sixth biggest movie of all time.

The Secrets of Dumbledore wasn't going to be a No Way Home-sized hit, but it would have hoped to benefit from a similar nostalgia boost. After the first movie, the series pivoted to making Potter characters the centre and in the threequel, Albus Dumbledore is arguably the lead character.

It's hard to pinpoint one specific reason why Potter fans have turned off the series, because it's more likely a perfect storm of various issues. You could easily point to the behind-the-scenes developments mentioned earlier, but equally, it could just generally be a lack of enthusiasm for a prequel series that hasn't ever known what it is.

By moving the series more into Potter lore with the arrival of Dumbledore, Fantastic Beasts has lost the selling point of the first movie. If Rowling conjured up a unique story that focused on Newt Scamander and the adorable beasts, maybe things could have been different for the spin-off series.

Instead, fans have known from before the release of the first movie that they'll be getting a five-movie series where we already know the ending. Their fears about it being stretched out were confirmed by The Crimes of Grindelwald and, combined with everything that's happened since 2018, the threequel was arguably fighting a losing battle.

Photo credit: Warner Bros.
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

As we mentioned before, perhaps Warner Bros were protecting themselves against this with the way The Secrets of Dumbledore plays out. By the end of the threequel, Grindelwald has been exposed (again), Queenie and Jacob get married and Newt reunites with Tina Goldstein.

It's a neat wrap-up of the three movies to date without a major cliffhanger to resolve as there was with The Crimes of Grindewald's ending. Fans know from canon where the story is going and you could easily see it being the final Fantastic Beasts movie.

If The Secrets of Dumbledore does make it to $400 million worldwide, that would actually make it the third-biggest movie of 2022 to date. It's far from the worst performance from a major blockbuster this year (hi, Morbius), but in the context of the series and its future, it doesn't bode well.

Of course, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore's soft box-office performance doesn't guarantee that this is the end of the series.

There's a chance the movie could rebound on its home release enough to persuade Warner Bros that, maybe, one final movie could be worthwhile. Neither of the planned fourth or fifth movies have been written, so it's not out of the question that the events could be squished into one movie.

But right now, things look far from magical for the Harry Potter spin-off series.

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is out now in cinemas.

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