Vudu is reporting that the biggest-grossing film on their VOD platform last weekend was the newly released Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore. The J.K. Rowling and Steve Kloves-penned prequel threequel is hovering near the top of the various VOD platforms (Amazon, iTunes, Google, Vudu and YouTube) while being available “for free” on HBO Max. More importantly, David Yates’ Fantastic Beasts 3 passed $400 million at the global box office this past weekend. That doesn’t make the $200 million flick a hit. Previous under-$100 million domestic/over $400 million worldwide earners like Terminator: Genysis, Alita: Battle Angel, The Mummy and Warcraft weren’t hits either). This threequel was not the middle section of a five-part series but a graceful exit point for a franchise that was never going to reach the promised land.
$400 million worldwide is down 39% from the $659 million global gross of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald which in turn was down 19% from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The drop for the second chapter wasn’t that bad, although the poor reviews and lackluster buzz (along with just $155 million domestic, down 33% from the $234 million domestic gross of the first film) led pretty much everyone (including me) to predict a crash on par with the third Divergent, Terminator: Dark Fate and X-Men: Dark Phoenix. However, since Fantastic Beasts 2 did earn a more-than-good-enough $659 million on a $200 million budget, it was arguably worth a shot at hoping pundits like me were wrong. But now that we weren’t, it’s time to move on.
The final reel of The Secrets of Dumbledore provided closure for its core characters (Newt, Tina, Jacob and Queenie) with the Dumbledore versus Grindelwald conflict pressing onward “offscreen.” I don’t know whether there is value beyond initial curiosity in an HBO Max series featuring what this series should have been about in the first place, namely that quartet running around the world finding and helping magical creatures, but it’s a possibility if David Zaslav wants to quickly get some more “Wizarding World” content up and running for the streaming platform. Nonetheless, Fantastic Beasts should be done as a film series. Even when, especially when, judged on a Covid curve, The Secrets of Dumbledore and its $94 million domestic/$400 million worldwide cume is not a franchise saved but a bullet dodged.
However, I will note that Warner Bros. now has four films that have passed $400 million worldwide just since Godzilla Vs. Kong ($468 million) in March of 2021. Heck had New York and LA theaters been open in August/September of 2020, Tenet surely would have done so but instead had to settle for $366 million. Since early 2021, WB has seen Dune ($400 million), Fantastic Beasts 3 ($400 million) and The Batman ($770 million) cross that milestone. Of the 16 Hollywood films that have done the deed (including Paramount’s Sonic the Hedgehog 2 with $393 million-and-counting), four of them have come from the Dream Factory. Not yet counting Jurassic World: Dominion, Minions: The Rise of Gru, Thor: Love & Thunder (and hopefully Lightyear), that’s 27% of the Covid-era total.
Of the other 11 $400 million-plus grossers thus far, three (Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Spider-Man: No Way Home and Uncharted) came from Sony, three came from Universal (F9, No Time to Die and Sing 2), two (Top Gun: Maverick and Sonic 2) came from Paramount and three (Shang-Chi, Eternals and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness) came from Disney. Of WB’s four films, only one (The Batman) was a comic book superhero movie, compared to one for Sony, three for Universal, two for Paramount and, uh, zero for Disney. With all the talk about how Zaslov wants to turn Warner Bros. Discovery into the next Disney, right now Disney’s theatrical and streaming fortunes are almost entirely dependent on Star Wars and Marvel. Be careful what you wish for.