Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore has passed $200 million worldwide.
With $3.21 million on Tuesday, down 13% from its Easter-inflated Monday, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore has earned $49 million after five days of domestic release. Domestically speaking, the film is a bust. With poor reviews, a B+ Cinemascore (compared to an A for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) and little in the way of positive buzz, it’ll be lucky to have a multiplier on par with Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald ($159 million from a $62 million debut in November 2018). That would give the film $107 million in domestic grosses, ironically right between Godzilla Vs. Kong ($100 million a year ago) and Dune ($108 million from a $40 million debut).
A multiplier on par with Godzilla: King of the Monsters multiplier ($110 million/$48 million in 2019) or Godzilla ($200 million/$93 million in 2014) would give it between $90 million and $96 million. The picture is doing almost halfway decent outside of North America, especially as it’s not 2018 in China and Russia is off the table. It earned $71 million last weekend after a $56 million opening weekend, giving it a $150 million overseas cume and $193 million global cume. That’s a 22/78 domestic/overseas split, which isn’t far off from Crimes of Grindelwald (24/76) and Where to Find Them (29/71). If that has been maintained as such, then the film has earned $225 million worldwide thus far and will probably top $400 million by the end.
Warner Bros. needed at least one more movie.
Of course, the other reason Warner Bros. arguably “had” to make the third installment was that The Crimes of Grindelwald ended on a grimdark cliffhanger. Leta Lestrange (Zoey Kravitz), the woman loved by both Newt (Eddie Redmayne) and Thesus (Callum Turner) sacrificed herself, Queenie (Alison Sodol) decided to join Grindewald’s (Johnny Depp, since replaced by Mads Mikkelsen) evil army and Credence (Ezra Miller) was revealed to be Dumbledore’s brother. An incomplete Fantastic Beasts franchise wouldn’t just be embarrassing for the studio, it would be all but useless in terms of future monetization in terms of streaming, VOD and physical media sales.
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore was a distinct WB-style course correction. The film does spend some time with the whole “watch these fun heroes pal around together.” However, the near-total removal of Katherine Waterson’s Tina (either due to her being more forthcoming in protest of J.K. Rowling’s arguably transphobic commentary or just because Hollywood considers female leads expendable) and the post-Crimes of Grindelwald status quo for Queenie leaves our heroic group lacking in estrogen and general merriment. Jessica Williams’ Lally Hicks can only do so much on her own.
The tone is lighter, as save for some first-reel animal murder there’s almost no violence over its 142-minute runtime. Grindelwald is remade as a Trump parable, Credence is mostly kept on the sidelines while his backstory is tweaked to be slightly less absurd. And yes, Jude Law’s Dumbledore gets promoted from glorified cameo to co-star, while the film features just enough Hogwarts nostalgia to throw into a trailer. Like Godzilla Vs. Kong and the theatrical cut of Justice League, it crafts a user-friendly, allegedly more commercial flick that can also operate as the finale for the franchise.
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore works as a series finale.
Getting into spoiler territory, the film ends with some very specific choices. First, the good guys win, foiling Grindelwald’s plot to be elected as a leader of the wizarding world. Credence goes home with his long-lost father, seemingly dying and thus able to reprise or be written out depending on how Ezra Miller’s next few years play out. Grindewald gets away, but the whole world is now aware of his treachery, with the presumption that Dumbledore will eventually catch him and stop him for good. Queenie and Jacob (series MVP Dan Fogler) get married as Newt and Tina are (seemingly) reunited.
Simply put, whether by design or by post-production choices, JK Rowling, Steve Kloves, David Yates and all parties created a Fantastic Beasts threequel that can be “part three of five” (as originally intended) or, if need be, “part three of three.” Even if WB calls it quits on this specific Wizarding World franchise, they still have a complete filmed trilogy that can be used for streaming, boxed sets and related monetization. If the most important factor in making Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore was in providing closure to the series, then in that sense it is a measured success.
I’m not among those who think that the franchise faltered by shifting focus away from Newt’s zoology adventures, since, even the first Fantastic Beasts movie was very much pulling itself in two directions in terms of fanciful adventure and grimdark mythology. However, The Secrets of Dumbledore reverts the status quo to how it was at the happy end of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Grindelwald is exposed, Queenie and Jacob are together, and Newt is merely a bystander in the Wizarding World. You could essentially watch Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and then pick up with whatever comes next.
Will Fantastic Beasts return on HBO Max?
Warner Bros. Discovery now has the option of (offhand) an HBO Max series featuring our heroic quartet (Newt, Tina, Jacob and Queenie) running around the world playing Pokemon Go! while the Grindelwald problem is handled offscreen. I don’t know whether WBD can turn the Wizarding World into the HBO Max equivalent of Star Wars, but I’ll argue that the successes with The Peacemaker and the Disney+ MCU shows show that you need some explicit connection to cinematic franchises. That Secrets of Dumbledore gave the series a somewhat honorable conclusion means that Fantastic Beasts may be a viable launching pad for a streaming event.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is both an unquestionable theatrical whiff and somewhat impressive on a Covid curve. It’ll (probably) be just the tenth Hollywood film to cross that arbitrary milestone since the pre-Covid release of Bad Boys For Life. Four of those came from Warner Bros., and honestly, the $365 million-grossing Tenet absolutely would have in summer 2020 had North America pulled its weight. The great irony is that Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore may turn out to be a “successful disappointment.” $400-$450 million worldwide on a $200 million budget would have been miserable in pre-Covid times. But by 2022 standards, it’s almost honorable.