Just over five years after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 was released in theaters, fans across the globe are heading back to the Wizarding World. J.K. Rowling makes her much anticipated screenwriting debut with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which held its preview showings Thursday night. Heading into the weekend, the film was tracking for an opening around $70-80 million, with some indicating the film could do even better. Fantastic Beasts, which stars Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander, the soon to be author of the textbook of the same name, has garnered strong reviews, though its Rotten Tomatoes score has slipped from 100% earlier this week to 75% (as of this writing).
Estimating Fantastic Beasts' box office success is not a perfect science. After all, while naturally comparable to the Harry Potter series, unlike those films, Fantastic Beasts is not based on a worldwide book phenomenon. Therefore, industry analysts were never expecting the prequel to match the $100+ million openings of the last few Harry Potter films. In fact, only two prequels have ever notched such an opening: Minions and Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (which many thought would be the last Star Wars film ever). As for Fantastic Beasts, we now have some numbers to clear up the box office expectations.
Deadline is reporting that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has grossed a strong $8.75 million from its Thursday night previews. Those receipts are just shy of the $8.8 million take for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, another prequel, which ultimately grossed $31.19 million Friday on its way to a $73.6 million opening weekend. The report suggests that Fantastic Beasts could do slightly better, as the film is seeing Doctor Strange-like matinees - perhaps lifting the film to a $75+ million opening.
Ultimately, Warner Bros. is likely happy with the numbers they are seeing, as Fantastic Beasts is in striking distance of a top 10 opening weekend for a prequel. Furthermore, the film is poised to have strong legs throughout the holiday season, at least until Rogue One hits theaters. While Fantastic Beast's Cinemascore has not yet been determined, it has an impressive 88% user score on Rotten Tomatoes, which suggests that word of mouth will be very strong.
Obviously, given Rowling's popularity internationally, and fan anticipation for another Harry Potter-esque story, the success of Fantastic Beasts was never in much doubt. But with an opening in the $75-80 million range, on top of certain to be strong international numbers, Warner Bros. likely can be confident in their decision to stretch this franchise into five movies.
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