'Fantastic Beasts' Eyes Fantastic Opening that Could Top $90 Million
SATURDAY AM UPDATE: Warner Bros.'s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them delivered an estimated $29.7 million on Friday, heading toward an opening around $75 million, which is well behind Mojo's lofty forecast but right on part with industry expectations heading into the weekend. The film was well received by opening day audiences, which gave it an "A" CinemaScore with the most interesting fact being it played to an audience that was 55% over the age of 35 and only 18% under the age of 18. The fact it's skewing more toward older fans rather than engaging a younger audience on a higher level could be the difference between expanding on an already developed story that was both popular on the page and big screen and basing the film on a new book that already had the attention of the younger audiences. The big test for this one, however, will be the coming weekends to see how well it holds up.

The week's other new and holdover releases were pretty much a reflection of the weekend overall, which appears as if it will be far lighter than anticipated with Doctor Strange and Trolls finishing #2 and #3 respectively on Friday, heading toward a weekend that could see both films right around $16.5 million. Paramount's Arrival brought in an estimated $3.4 million on Friday, heading toward a second weekend around $11.3 million while Almost Christmas and Hacksaw Ridge will likely battle it out for fifth place around out after bringing in $1.99 million and $1.9 million on Friday respectively.

The weekend's two other new wide releases are stumbling out of the gates with The Edge of Seventeen bringing in an estimated $1.7 million on Friday, heading toward an opening that could struggle to hit $5 million. And Open Road's Bleed for This brought in an estimated $895,366 on Friday, heading toward a three-day opening around $2.5 million.

Finally, Sony's Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk faired even worse in its expansion, bringing in an estimated $350,000 on Friday from 1,176 theaters, heading toward a weekend around $1.1 million.

You can check out the full Friday estimates right here and we'll be back tomorrow morning with a full recap of the weekend.

FRIDAY AM UPDATE: The weekend is underway as Warner Bros.'s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them got things started with $8.75 million from Thursday night previews, which began at 6 PM in 3,700+ theaters. This is on par with films such as Transformers: Age of Extinction, which also brought in $8.75 million on Thursday before opening with $100 million. That, of course, was a summer release. Looking more closely at some of our comparisons in our weekend preview it is a shade below the $9.4m Doctor Strange brought in on Thursday before opening with $85 million two weeks ago and well behind the $16 million The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 brought in on Thursday night before opening with $102 million back in 2015. It is however, ahead of the $7.1 million Thor: The Dark World brought in back in November 2013 before opening with $85.7 million. In fact, it's the ninth largest Thursday preview/midnight opening for a November release. Here's the list:

  • The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 (11/16/12) - $30.4m Thurs preview / $141.07m Opening
  • The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 (11/18/11) - $30.3m Thurs preview / $138.12m Opening
  • The Twilight Saga: New Moon (11/20/09) - $26.27m Thurs preview / $142.84m Opening
  • The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (11/22/13) - $25.2m Thurs preview / $158.07m Opening
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (11/19/10) - $24m Thurs preview / $125.02m Opening
  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 (11/21/14) - $17m Thurs preview / $121.9m Opening
  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 (11/20/15) - $16m Thurs preview / $102.67m Opening
  • Doctor Strange (11/4/16) - $9.4 M Thurs preview / $85.06m Opening
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them (11/18/16) - $8.75m Thurs preview / $???m Opening
  • Thor: The Dark World (11/8/13) - $7.1m Thurs preview / $85.74m Opening

Added to the news of its domestic previews, Fantastic Beasts continued its international roll-out yesterday, adding 38 markets and ranking #1 in all 47 markets now in release with an estimated gross of $16.6 million bringing its two-day international cume to $23.5 million.

STX's The Edge of Seventeen brought in $220,000 from Thursday previews last night in ~1,400 theaters beginning at 7PM. Comparatively, That Awkward Moment brought in $246,000 on Thursday night before opening with $8.7 million, though comparisons in this range are tough to make. Same goes for Open Road's Bleed for This, which brought in an estimated $140,000 from approximately 1,000 theaters.

We will be back tomorrow morning with a look at Friday estimates and you can read our weekend preview below.

WEEKEND PREVIEW: Fifteen years ago J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series made the leap from its place in literary history to its place in film history. Since then, the eight-film franchise has generated nearly $2.4 billion domestically and over $7.7 billion worldwide with the last of the Harry Potter films being released five years ago. This weekend a new adventure within J.K. Rowling's Wizarding World begins in the form of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a prequel to the Harry Potter franchise, debuting in over 4,000 theaters and looking at a #1 opening that could top $90 million.

Meanwhile, fellow new releases this weekend include the coming-of-age dramedy The Edge of Seventeen starring Hailee Steinfeld and Bleed for This starring Miles Teller. Additionally, Sony's Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk expands into over 1,100 theaters and limited release standout Moonlight gets a moderate nationwide release into 650 theaters.

As already mentioned, it has been five years since the last Harry Potter film, when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 closed out the eight film franchise with a $169.1 million opening in July 2011 before raking in $381 million domestically and $1.34 billion worldwide. In fact, it was the only film in the Potter series to gross over $1 billion globally. That in mind, the question to ask when attempting to forecast how well Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them will perform this weekend is to wonder how "in the know" the target fanbase is? Are they aware this film is a new entry in an ever-expanding Wizarding World from J.K. Rowling, and how much do they believe they need to see this film? More specifically, how much do they believe they need to see it opening weekend?

Ensuring audiences catch on there have been plenty of cues to be found in the film's marketing from the film's score, composed by James Newton Howard, hinting at the now-iconic Harry Potter theme, the title font, "Potter Nerd" videos, IMAX fan events and the most obvious, the mentioning of both Hogwarts and Albus Dumbledore in the film's trailers ever since the very first teaser. Of course, die hard Potter fans probably own the 128-page A-to-Z handbook of all beings magical Rowling wrote for charity, written as the fictional character and star of Fantastic Beasts, Newt Scamander, played by Eddie Redmayne in the film. All told, while there are surely some out there that haven't made the connection there's no doubting many have to the point RottenTomatoes is not only sporting an 81% critic rating, but a 99% "want to see" rating from the site's users.

Added to the hype, online ticket retailer Fandango.com reports the film is outpacing Marvel's Doctor Strange, which opened two weeks ago with $85 million and an informal survey of early Beasts ticket buyers at the site found 94% identifying as Harry Potter fans. Beasts is also outperforming Doctor Strange when compared against IMDb page view data leading up to the film's release, as well as comparable titles such as the November releases of Thor: The Dark World and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2. It's also out-pacing the December release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which debuted with $84.6 million in December 2012.

The film is opening in 4,144 theaters, of which 388 (+9 compared to Doctor Strange) are IMAX and 3,600+ are showing the film in 3-D with Thursday night preview screenings beginning at 6PM in 3,700+ theaters. Based on all of this information an opening at or above $90 million looks like a strong possibility while industry expectations are remaining a bit more conservative by comparison, targeting an opening around $75 million.

Internationally the film debuted in nine markets on Wednesday, pulling in $6.9 million including a $1.8 million opening day in France and $1.7 million in South Korea. The film expands into 38 additional markets today, including Germany, Italy, Russia, Brazil and Australia, followed by 16 markets on Friday, including UK, Spain and Mexico for a total of 63 international markets on over 22,000 screens this weekend with releases set for China and Japan next weekend.

In second and third position it's looking as if Doctor Strange and Trolls may be in a bit of a tussle, both looking at junior weekends around $21 millionmaking the forecast a bit more difficult is the fact Strange is losing plenty of its IMAX screens to Beasts while many films last weekend saw a bit of a bump thanks to a down Monday and Tuesday heading into the weekend as a result of the U.S. election as well as Veterans Day on Fridaymeanwhile, Paramount's Arrival opened strong last weekend with just over $24 million and should be looking at a second weekend drop around 39% for a sophomore session around $14.5 million.

There could be a battle for fifth position between the second weekend for Universal's Almost Christmas and the debut of STX's The Edge of Seventeen. Almost Christmas opened with just over $15 million last weekend and should drop around 42-46% this weekend, kicking off its second week with around $8.5 million while The Edge of Seventeen could open anywhere from $8-10 million.

Starring Hailee Steinfeld and Woody Harrelson, Edge of Seventeen is an R-rated coming-of-age feature debuting in 1,945 theaters. Given the strong reviews (93% on RottenTomatoes) it wouldn't be unreasonable to expect more than $8-10 million from this one, but considering its likely to bleed some of its audience due to Fantastic Beasts it's more likely to settle around $8.5 million or so. It should, however, play very well over the coming weeks, especially with the holidays around the corner.

Moving on we come to Ang Lee's Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, which debuted with $114,129 from two theaters in New York and Los Angeles last weekend and expands to 1,176 theaters this weekend. It's tough to predict how expansions such as this will perform, but a 46% rating at RottenTomatoes isn't likely to help matters much as a weekend around $3.4 million seems a best case scenario.

Hot on its heels will be the last of the weekend's new wide releases, Open Road's Bleed for This, which was originally expected to open in ~2,000 theaters, but will only find its way into 1,549 theaters this weekend. Starring Miles Teller, the film has received decent reviews, scoring a 67% rating at RottenTomatoes, but it seems as if it may be getting a bit lost in the mix. A strong opening here would be anything at or above $6 million, but we're expecting something closer to $3.3 million for the true life boxing drama.

Tenth position could be interesting as The Accountant should continue its solid run with a weekend around $2.4 million or so, but it will be up to A24's Moonlight to see if it can find its way into the top ten as it expands to 650 theaters (+474) this weekend where it could bring in anywhere from $1.6-2.5 million as it continues to dance around the fringes of the weekend top ten.

In limited release this weekend we have a couple of interesting titles beginning with Kenneth Lonergan's Oscar hopeful Manchester by the Sea for which Casey Affleck has been receiving Oscar buzz ever since the Sundance Film Festival. The film will debut this weekend in four theaters.

Additionally, Focus will release Nocturnal Animals in 37 theaters with plans to expand to additional cities on November 23 followed by a nationwide release on December 9. The film is Tom Ford's first since 2009's A Single Man, which earned Colin Firth an Oscar nomination. Finally, High Top will debut The Take (previously known as Bastille Day) in 100 theaters.

Overall, we're looking at a weekend where the top twelve delivers $184 million, approximately a 10% improvement over the same weekend last year when The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 debuted with $102.6 million.

This weekend's forecast is directly below. This post will be updated on Friday morning with Thursday night preview results followed by Friday estimates on Saturday morning, and a complete weekend recap on Sunday morning.

  • Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them (4,144 theaters) - $92.0 M
  • Trolls (3,945 theaters) - $20.6 M
  • Doctor Strange (3,694 theaters) - $20.1 M
  • Arrival (2,335 theaters) - $14.5 M
  • Almost Christmas (2,379 theaters) - $8.5 M
  • The Edge of Seventeen (1,945 theaters) - $8.4 M
  • Hacksaw Ridge (2,883 theaters) - $6.6 M
  • Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk (1,176 theaters) - $3.4 M
  • Bleed for This (1,549 theaters) - $3.3 M
  • The Accountant (1,423 theaters) - $2.5 M

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