A pack of intrepid wizards will duel against a tiny blue speed demon to lead domestic box office charts.
The odds-on favorite “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore,” the third entry in the “Harry Potter” spinoff series, is expected to debut to at least $40 million from 4,200 North American theaters. Those ticket sales should be enough to surpass the competition — unless last weekend’s champion “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” powers to another strong turnout at the movies. Paramount’s kid friendly sequel opened last weekend to huge $72 million and could add $30 million to $40 million in its second outing.
Elsewhere, Sony Pictures is getting an early start by bringing “Father Stu,” an R-rated faith based drama starring Mark Wahlberg and Mel Gibson, to theaters on Wednesday. The movie is projected to earn $7 million from 2,705 cinemas in its first five days of release.
“Harry Potter” veteran David Yates directed “The Secrets of Dumbledore,” a fantastical adventure that puts a bigger spotlight on beloved Hogwarts professor Albus Dumbledore (portrayed by Jude Law). In the new movie, he teams up with notable magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and friends to thwart the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Madds Mikkelson, replacing Johnny Depp) from igniting a wizarding world war. The cast also includes Ezra Miller, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Callum Turner and Jessica Williams.
The third chapter in the prequel series, which predates the adventures of Harry, Ron and Hermione, 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.” The prequel saga is intended to be a five-film franchise, but executives at Warner Bros. are waiting to see how “The Secrets of Dumbledore” is received before giving films four and five the greenlight.
J.K. Rowling and Steve Kloves co-wrote “Fantastic Beasts 3,” which cost $200 million to produce. It’s on track to land the lowest start for “Harry Potter”-adjacent movies. 2016’s “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” ignited to $74 million in North America, while the 2018 follow-up “The Crimes of Grindelwald” bowed to a slightly less-magical $62 million. In the case of “The Secrets of Dumbledore,” COVID could pose a challenge to eventual box office profitability. Since the onset of the pandemic, only five Hollywood movies have generated at least $500 million at the worldwide box office.
Like its predecessors, “The Secrets of Dumbledore” will be reliant on the international box office to make money in its theatrical run. The first two “Fantastic Beasts” installments — which ended with $814 million globally and $650 million globally, respectively — made nearly 75% of revenues from foreign sales. Before touching down in the U.S. and Canada, “Fantastic Beasts 3” opened overseas, where the film has already pulled in $58 million from 22 overseas markets. “The Secrets of Dumbledore” arrives in 44 additional markets, including France, Italy, Korea, Brazil and Mexico, this weekend.
For the muggles wanting to go to the movies, “Father Stu” — a rare religious film to land distribution by a major Hollywood studio — is arriving timed to Easter. Wahlberg, who also produced, personally helped to finance “Father Stu” when COVID-19 tacked on extra costs. Rosalind Ross, Gibson’s partner, wrote and directed the faith-based film, which tells the story of boxer-turned-priest Father Stuart Long and his inspiring journey from self-destruction to redemption.
In Variety’s review, chief film critic Owen Gleiberman called the movie “sometimes awkward” but praised Wahlberg, saying he “gives a fine performance, especially when he goes to a place you weren’t expecting.”
“Father Stu” is Gibson’s first major studio movie since 2017’s “Daddy’s Home 2” from Paramount Pictures. An Oscar winner for “Braveheart” and Academy Award-nominee for “Hacksaw Ridge,” Gibson has largely been working on smaller indies and straight-to-streaming action films with Lionsgate and Saban Films in the decade since making headlines for anti-semitic and racist tirades.