‘Fantastic Beasts 2’ Opens Solid, but Behind Predecessor at Box Office

Domestically, WB’s Wizarding World spinoff isn’t enchanting Pottermaniacs the way Harry used to

Fantastic Beasts The Crimes of Grindelwald
Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander in Warner Bros.'s "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald"

Warner Bros.’ “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” will top the box office charts with an estimated $65 million opening after making $25.7 million on Friday, including $9.1 million from Tuesday/Thursday previews. Although this sequel might have a solid run, there are signs that “Harry Potter” fans aren’t as excited for this spinoff series as they were for the film adaptations of J.K. Rowling’s novels.

By comparison, the first “Fantastic Beasts” opened to $74.4 million in November 2016 and went on to gross $234 million domestically. That opening was already lower than those of all eight “Potter” films. And while the box office performance of the “Potter” series flicked up and down before peaking with the final, two-part “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” “Fantastic Beasts” and its sequel are showing the sort of diminishing franchise returns in North America that “Potter” never did.

That includes how the films were received, with the first “Fantastic Beasts” earning an A on CinemaScore and 74 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, while “The Crimes of Grindelwald” has a B+ and a 44 percent RT score. That makes “Crimes of Grindelwald” the first film in the “Potter” franchise to fail to score an A or A- in audience polls.

Reception abroad is another story, with international grosses already totaling $74.3 million to push the worldwide total to $100 million. Currently, the film is 14 percent ahead of the pace set by the overseas launch of the first “Fantastic Beasts,” which made 71 percent of its $814 million global total internationally. With three more films planned by Rowling and Warner Bros. in the “Fantastic Beasts” saga, that should be enough to keep the Wizarding World going.

Two holdovers will take second and third this weekend. Illumination/Universal’s “The Grinch” is in second with an estimated $39 million in its second weekend, down just 42 percent from the film’s $67.5 million opening. With such a strong hold, it’s possible that this animated title is peeling off family audiences from “Fantastic Beasts,” especially families with younger children.

In third and still going strong is Fox/New Regency’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” dropping 49 percent in its third weekend for an estimated $15 million total. Both “Grinch” and “Bohemian” are expected to finish the weekend with domestic totals of approximately $127 million.

Finishing the top five are two new releases, Paramount’s “Instant Family” and Fox/New Regency’s “Widows,” both of which are sitting on the lower end of tracker projections with a $12-13 million opening. Audience and critical reception has been strong for both films. “Instant Family,” which opened to $4.5 million on Friday from 3,286 locations and is currently projected to take the No. 4 spot, has an A on CinemaScore and a 79 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

“Widows” didn’t do as well with audiences with a B, but has won over critics with a 91 percent “Certified Fresh” score on Rotten Tomatoes. “Widows” also has the advantage of being in consideration for major awards, with buzz circling around Viola Davis for Best Actress and Elizabeth Debicki for Best Supporting Actress. If that awards buzz continues, it could help draw the attention of older audiences who traditionally go to see awards contenders later in their theatrical run.