‘Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets Of Dumbledore’ Hits Domestic Shores On Good Friday, But Can It Outrun ‘Sonic 2’?
AfterSonic the Hedgehog 2 dashed into theaters for a $70 million opening and gave 2022 its third $100+ million overall weekend gross, there is hope that the momentum keeps up this weekend with the release of Harry Potter spinoff Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets Of Dumbledore. Whether or not the film lives up to previous installments, this long Easter weekend should continue the hot streak from the past three weekends, which are all in the top five for this year.

The Secrets of Dumbledore is the third film (out of a planned five) in the Fantastic Beasts franchise, which acts as a prequel to the Harry Potter series, taking place many decades prior and focusing on Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and a slew of other wizards (and a muggle) in a war against dark wizard Grindelwald (previously portrayed by Johnny Depp, and now by Mads Mikkelsen). This time future Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore takes center stage as Jude Law steps into the role, and the ensemble also includes Ezra Miller, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Callum Turner, Jessica Williams, and Katherine Waterston.

The Fantastic Beasts films have grossed at the lower end of the Harry Potter franchise, but that’s still nothing to cast a sneezing spell at, especially considering that direct connections to the main series are minimal. The first film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them opened to $74.4 million and finished with $234 million, but those domestic franchise lows were made up for by a massive overseas take that brought it to $814 million worldwide. The sequel took a hit on all fronts, opening at $62.1 million and finishing with $159 million domestically and $655 million worldwide.

While the series has still proven to be a moneymaker even in its decline, a further box office drop could be a sign of concern for one of WB’s biggest franchises (especially when you factor in the $200 million price tags on the films). Secrets of Dumbledore’s opened in 22 international markets last weekend, and the numbers are not reassuring. Its overseas debut brought in $58 million, only around half of what the first two films opened to in like-for-like markets. A good chunk of that disparity comes from China, which is seeing a depressed box office amidst their Covid-19 wave, and Secrets of Dumbledore’s $10 million China opening is down from Crimes of Grindelwald’s $36.7 million debut. However, the numbers are down in many other countries as well, including the U.K., where the third film’s $7.7 million opening was down considerably from the first’s $18.9 million and the sequel’s $15.8 million.

The threequel, which is directed by Potter-verse vet David Yates, is expected to see a similar fall at the domestic box office, and there’s even the small chance (if Sonic 2 holds strong) that it becomes the first film in the franchise not to open at number one. It isn’t all bad news for the film, though. While critics are mixed on it (55% on Rotten Tomatoes) and don’t rank it as highly as the first installment (74%), the reviews suggest it is a step in the right direction after the faltering sophomore effort (36%). Though critics often diverge from audiences, the CinemaScores told a similar story of disappointment from the first film to its follow-up, going from an “A” to a “B+” respectively. An upswing in the audience response could be what the series needs to get back on course.

Other than Fantastic Beasts 3 and Sonic 2, we’re unlikely to see anything crack $10 million, and the weekend's other wide is expected to open soft. Sony’s Father Stu opened in 2705 theaters on Wednesday, getting ahead of the long weekend. The biopic stars Mark Wahlberg as the titular Father Stuart "Stu" Long, a boxer who became a priest. Also in the film, which Wahlberg produced, are Mel Gibson as Stu’s father, Jacki Weaver as his mother, and Teresa Ruiz as his love interest who sets him onto the path of faith. While there’s not much buzz for this and the reviews are middling (41% on RT), the religious themed film is perfectly timed for Easter and it could become a sleeper success.