Box Office: ‘Fantastic Beasts 2’ Is A Domestic Disaster But An Overseas Smash


Johnny Depp in ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald’Warner Bros.

With $29.65 million in its second Fri-Sun weekend and $42m over the long holiday, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald has earned $117.117m in ten days of domestic release. It dropped 52% in its second domestic weekend even with the relative buffer of a family-friendly holiday offering at least some support. That 53% drop is much worse than the 38% drop for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them two years ago. And while Ralph Breaks the Internet opened with $85m this weekend, the first FB held its own against Moana, which itself earned $82m over its Wed-Sun debut two years ago. For comparison, the drop for the Thanksgiving Harry Potter flicks (not counting Chamber of Secrets which had its third weekend on Thanksgiving) was -28% in 2001, -46% in 2005, -60% in 2010.

Well, 53% is essentially right in the middle of the comparatively leggy Goblet of Fire and the super-frontloaded Deathly Hallows Part I. However, it is almost identical to the 56% second-weekend drop for Justice League last Thanksgiving. The DC Films superhero flick earned a disappointing $93.8 million in its debut and then earned another $41m (-56%) in its second Fri-Sun frame. Ironically enough, when Justice League disappointed over its opening weekend with that under-$100m bow, the hope was that it might play somewhat like the first Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them which legged it to $234m from a $74.4m debut weekend. But Justice League nabbed a mere 2.44x multiplier in the end, which would have been fine with bigger numbers. And that’s the scenario in which Fantastic Beasts 2 now sits.

If it was pulling in Twilight, Hunger Games or Harry Potter grosses, it would be fine with an over/under 2.5x multiplier. When Harry Potter 7.1 or Twilight Saga: New Moon opens to $125m or The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 opens with $121m, they can survive or thrive with mere 2.35x ($295m for Harry Potter 7.1) or 2.7x ($337m for Hunger Games 3.1) multipliers. But when you’re opening closer to $60m than $80m (let alone $100m+), you need legs closer to Harry Potter 4 (2.8 x $102m = $295m in 2005) than Justice League (2.44 x $93m = $229m). A run merely as leggy as Fantastic Beasts 1 or Mockingjay part I at this juncture would still give Fantastic Beasts 2 $175m. That’s the best-case scenario, even with little of note opening between now and December 14.

A run like Justice League or Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part I (around 1.35 x its ten-day total) would leave Crimes of Grindelwald a disappointing $155 million-$160m domestic cume, on par with X-Men: Apocalypse ($155m in 2016) and leaving the J.K. Rowling franchise in a similar state of purgatory. Speaking of apocalypse, a post-Thanksgiving run like the Twilight sequels, however unlikely, would mean an over/under $150m domestic cume for the $200m-budgeted David Yates-directed flick. The “realistic” happy medium is legs similar to Mockingjay part 2, Catching Fire and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which would be an over/under $166m domestic cume. There’s nothing between now and Once Upon a Deadpool on December 12 (in limited release), but it’s not like Crimes of Grindelwald is igniting the fan base.

So, yes, it is entirely possible that Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald will earn less in total than the likes of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II ($169 million in 2011) and Batman v Superman ($166m in 2016) earned in their respective Fri-Sun opening weekends. It’s not unlike the aforementioned Bryan Singer X-Men sequel which earned poor reviews and annoyed the fan base to the tune of a final domestic gross lower than that of the unadjusted domestic total of the first X-Men ($157m back in 2000). Yes, we’re still getting Dark Phoenix next June but, well, how psyched are you for that one next summer? It’s a situation further complicated by the fact that the movie is doing relatively well overseas. It has earned $439.7m worldwide as of today.

The film has earned a frankly terrific overseas cume of $322 million, giving it a current 27/73 split. A relative 25/75 domestic/overseas split from a domestic finish closer to $165 million than $145m domestic gets it over $650m worldwide. That would be a face-saving figure and a relative bar for success for the next three chapters, especially if the budgets are closer to $175m than $200m. But even a 30/70 split from a $155m domestic take (China isn’t enjoying it any more than the last few Star Wars movies) gets it to $516m worldwide or below The Meg and Godzilla ($527m in 2018 and 2014 respectively). Having said that, we could see a Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales situation where it barely crosses $177m domestic but ends up with $794m worldwide.

If that happens, then it would be hard to look at the film as anything other than a relative success, and it would be hard to honestly criticize the decision to keep Johnny Depp as the title villain despite off-screen scandal. But the challenge was always going to be whether or not Fantastic Beasts 2 got folks excited for a Fantastic Beasts 3 that wasn’t the end of a trilogy but the middle of a five-part saga. With poor reviews, mixed word-of-mouth, the fact that the film is neither kid-friendly nor newbie-friendly and plenty of general audience options for the rest of the year, the Eddie Redmayne/Johnny Depp/Jude Law franchise needs all the magic it can muster both for its domestic box office fate and for whatever becomes of Fantastic Beasts in two years.

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