“Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” isn’t bewitching audiences, at least, compared to other films set in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
The latest chapter in the prequel saga, which takes place decades prior to the adventures of Harry, Ron and Hermione, opened at the international box office over the weekend and pulled in $58 million from 22 overseas markets. That’s a steep drop from 2018’s “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,” the previous entry in the fantastical series, which collected a spell-bounding $191 million in its international debut. Granted, the sequel was playing in 79 countries, whereas the threequel won’t have a footprint that wide until next weekend, when “The Secrets of Dumbledore” arrives in 44 additional markets, including France, Italy, Korea, Brazil and Mexico. “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” also opens next weekend in North America.
A slower start at the international box office is worrisome because although “Harry Potter” is ubiquitous around the globe, the series has always been especially popular among overseas audiences. For the first two “Fantastic Beasts” installments, nearly 75% of revenues came from foreign sales.
“Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” welcomed the biggest start in China with $10 million, a notable decline from its franchise predecessors. By comparison, “The Crimes of Grindelwald” opened to $36 million in China and 2016’s “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” kicked off with $40 million. However, China is currently grappling with spiking COVID-19 infection rates, with roughly 50% of the country’s theaters currently closed.
Other top-grossing territories include Germany with $9.4 million, Japan with $8.6 million, the United Kingdom with $8 million and Australia with $3.9 million.
Directed by “Harry Potter” veteran David Yates, “The Secrets of Dumbledore” carries a huge $200 million price tag. J.K. Rowling co-wrote the script with Steve Kloves, who wrote the screenplays for several “Harry Potter” movies. The newest entry puts the spotlight on beloved Hogwarts professor Albus Dumbledore (portrayed by Jude Law), who teams up with notable magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) to thwart the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Madds Mikkelson, who replaces Johnny Depp) from igniting a wizarding world war.
Despite the zeitgeist-defining popularity of “Harry Potter,” the “Fantastic Beasts” franchise hasn’t been able to recapture the same magic at the box office. “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” was a commercial success, generating more than $800 million at the global box office. Yet the follow-up stalled out with $654 million worldwide, the lowest ticket sales for a movie based on Rowling’s wizard lore. Though $650 million in ticket sales is not exactly an embarrassing result, the film fell short of box office expectations and indicated the series is already experiencing diminishing returns.
The latest movie has received mixed reviews. Variety’s Peter Debruge called the film a “vastly improved sequel,” while The Daily Beast’s Nick Schager said “this perfunctory bit of IP exploitation is a reminder that all good things come to an end.”
At the international box office, “Fantastic Beasts 3” faced tough competition from “Sonic the Hedgehog 2.” Paramount’s family friendly “Sonic” sequel added $37 million from 53 territories, taking its overseas tally to $70 million and global total to $141 million.