NOTE: All box office figures are as of December 3, 2018
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald ultimately turned a profit at the box office, but it's essentially the first real misstep in the lucrative Wizarding World franchise. Warner Bros. stumbled across a goldmine when they acquired the film rights to J.K. Rowling's ultra-popular Harry Potter novels and brought the magical universe to the big screen. It proved to be a very wise investment, as the eight movies collectively earned $7.7 billion at the worldwide box office (an average of $965.4 million a pop) and were all well-received by critics. Sadly (for fans and studio executives), Harry's story came to an end with 2011's The Deathly Hallows - Part 2.
However, the property made its return five years later with the first Fantastic Beasts installment. A spinoff/prequel centering on the adventures of Newt Scamander, the film proved to be another hit for the studio. Though reviews weren't as positively glowing as the mainline Potter movies, it still generated solid word-of-mouth and brought in $814 million worldwide. This all but ensured Rowling's plan to craft a five-part narrative would unfold, and The Crimes of Grindelwald hit theaters last month. Unfortunately, the results were far from what WB was hoping for.
Crimes of Grindelwald Couldn't Overcome Negative Buzz
Prospects for The Crimes of Grindelwald didn't look great from the outset. In addition to the lukewarm reception of its predecessor, the sequel was plagued by controversy in the months leading up to its release. Complaints against the casting of Johnny Depp (and all the personal baggage that comes with him) as the main villain have been well-documented, and die-hard Harry Potter fans took issue with several notable changes to the lore revealed in marketing. Notable examples include Nagini's troubling backstory, the Elder Wand, and Professor McGonagall's inclusion in the Hogwarts scenes. There were still circles of the fan base excited to see Crimes of Grindelwald, but the odds were stacked against it.
Movies have been able to overcome negative buzz before, but the second Fantastic Beasts was not one of them. When the professional reviews started to roll in, Crimes of Grindelwald became the franchise's first installment to be Rotten on Rotten Tomatoes. To illustrate just how much of a step down in quality it is, its nine predecessors are all Certified Fresh. Again, some audience members found enjoyment in another journey to the Wizarding World, but the general consensus is that Crimes of Grindelwald was a muddled, confusing mess of a film preoccupied more with setting up its upcoming sequels than telling a captivating story that stands on its own merits. Some people feel Rowling is following the path to becoming the next George Lucas, while others place the blame on director David Yates' approach. Regardless of whose fault it primarily is, the Fantastic Beasts films clearly aren't resonating as much as Harry Potter.
This can be reflected in The Crimes of Grindelwald's box office performance. Though it easily won its opening weekend, its haul wasn't anything to write home about. Earning just $62.1 million domestically in its first three days, The Crimes of Grindelwald scored the lowest debut in the series by more than $12 million. That figure is far below other 2018 tentpoles, such as Venom (which broke October records with $80.2 million despite bad reviews) and even infamous flop Solo: A Star Wars Story ($84.4 million). Interest in Grindelwald was very low, and it was never able to rebound. Its legs proved to be weak; as of this writing, it's made $135.3 million Stateside. It hasn't been able to keep pace with the original Fantastic Beasts, which earned $184.3 million at the same point in its run (18 days) and ended with $234 million domestically. With the big December releases like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Mary Poppins Returns on the horizon, that's a total Crimes of Grindelwald won't match or surpass.
Of course, the domestic box office only tells half the story. In recent years, international markets have become of very high importance, and often can help push a middling movie across the profitability line. With The Crimes of Grindelwald failing to leave much of an impression in the United States, it needed a strong showing overseas in order to become the hit the studio desired. On that front, it was mostly successful, yet the numbers still leave something to be desired - especially when compared to the other entries in the franchise.