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‘Fantastic Beasts’ Stuffs Suitcase With $75 Million on Box Office Debut

”Harry Potter“ prequel hits dead center of wide-ranging predictions

“Harry Potter” prequel “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” met expectations on its debut weekend, easily topping the box office with $75 million.

Previous predictions for the movie were wide-ranging, as some trackers put the “Potter” spinoff movie ahead of $80 million. Others pegged its three-day opening at more than $90 million. Warner Bros. expected it would safely land above $70 million.

The wizarding film starring Eddie Redmayne was produced for a reported $180 million, which is further offset by its international opening of an estimated $143.3 million from 63 markets this weekend. Of its worldwide box office, $15 million was from 665 IMAX screens.

“Fantastic Beasts” opens in China next weekend, where “Harry Potter” movies have always performed strongly.

It’s playing on 4,144 screens domestically and has a 76 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. “Fantastic Beasts” also has a top-notch A CinemaScore, graded by those who screened it on opening night.

The film cast a big shadow over the weekend’s other new wide releases, none of which cracked the top five (see list below).

Following up its hit comedy “Bad Moms,” STX’s coming-of-age dramedy “The Edge of Seventeen” earned $4.8 million, down from previous estimates of $10 million.

That’s still not bad for the warmly-reviewed film, which was made for $9 million and stars Hailee Steinfeld as a curmudgeonly high schooler with a sharp wit. Marking the directorial debut of Kelly Fremon Craig, the film has critics comparing it to John Hughes classics “The Breakfast Club” and “Sixteen Candles.” It net a 95 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an A- CinemaScore.

“The Edge of Seventeen” also stars Woody Harrelson and Kyra Sedgwick, and is playing on 1,945 screens.

Open Road’s boxing drama “Bleed for This” came in much lower than initial estimates of $6 million. Playing on 1,549 screens, its ticket sales ended the weekend with an estimated $2.4 million. It stars Miles Teller and Aaron Eckhart, and has a 63 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and an A- CinemaScore.

Tri-Star drama “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” distributed by Sony, expanded into 1,176 theaters this weekend following a mostly sold-out limited Los Angeles and New York opening. Ang Lee’s high-tech film, shot at 120 frames per second, hasn’t gotten great reviews and currently sits at 41 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. It grossed an estimated $930,000.

However, it’s not all bad news for the film, as it made $11.8 million in China last weekend.

Returning to “Fantastic Beasts,” given its new story and timeline within J.K. Rowling’s magical world, the title has been something of a box office question mark — especially in predicting how it will stack up against the “Harry Potter” movies.

On the low end: “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” opened to $77.1 million in 2007 and “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” bowed to $77.8 million in 2009.

By comparison, the biggest debut of the original series came in 2011 with “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2,” which grossed $169.2 million on its opening and went on to earn $1.34 billion worldwide to become the eighth highest grossing film of all time, just behind 2015’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”

“Fantastic Beasts,” directed by David Yates, is expanding from a three-movie franchise to five, author and screenwriter Rowling announced last month.

Set in the same universe as “Harry Potter,” the inaugural “Fantastic Beasts” movie takes place in 1920s New York and stars Redmayne as a British “magizoologist” named Newt Scamander who travels across the pond to hunt for magical creatures.

Newt arrives in New York, as Percival Graves (Colin Farrell) investigates a collapsed building destroyed by a magical creature. The film opens with several newspaper headlines about Grindelwald attacking wizards.

Farrell and Redmayne are joined onscreen by Katherine Waterston, Jon Voight, Ezra Miller, Zoe Kravitz, Samantha Morton, Dan Fogler and Alison Sudol.

Yates directed the last four “Harry Potter” films.

The already green-lit second film in the “Fantastic Beasts” series will be set in another major world city with different magical creatures.

“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” is based on the Rowling book of the same name, which was a mock textbook about magical creatures. In the “Harry Potter” series, the book is required reading for Hogwarts students.

The Top Five:
1. “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (Warner Bros.) — $75 million in Week 1 ($75 million)
2. “Doctor Strange” (Disney) — $17.7 million in Week 3 ($181.5 million total)
2. “Trolls” (20th Century Fox) — $17.5 million in Week 3 ($116.2 million total)
4. “Arrival” (Paramount) — $11.8 million in Week 2 ($43.4 million total)
5. “Almost Christmas” (Universal) — $7 million in Week 2 ($25.4 million total)