J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them took the top spot at this weekend’s box office, racking up $75 million. It’s a solid opening for the Harry Potter spin-off but not necessarily strong enough on its own to launch the would-be franchise. The weekend numbers not only failed to match the openings of the Harry Potter films before it, but failed to do so in an era when box-office grosses are more front-loaded.
The film, which received positive notices from critics and high marks from Cinemascore viewers, will nevertheless need strong numbers overseas (likely) and impressive box-office legs here in the United States to guarantee that the $185 million budgeted film will lead to future sequels (five films have been tentatively planned for the franchise). The good news is, it should continue to perform well over the Thanksgiving holiday (Dwayne Johnson’s Moana will be its biggest competition) and add to its impressive overseas total. The bad news, however, is that 45 percent of its opening-weekend audience was over the age of 35, meaning that Fantastic Beasts so far looks like a film that appeals to older preexisting Potter fans but is not bringing in the number of newcomers it takes to generate a long-surviving franchise (only 18 percent of Beasts moviegoers were under the age of 18).
The jury is still out on the future of the franchise, but even as a stand-alone film, Fantastic Beasts is worth a look. It takes a too long to set up the new universe and it tries to cram too much into two-and-a-half hours, but once Fantastic Beasts gains some momentum, it’s thrilling and hugely entertaining. It’s also the first time I’ve seen Eddie Redmayne on film where I didn’t get a chill like the spirit of all of my murdered relatives passes had just passed through me.
Meanwhile, one of the best-reviewed films of the year, Edge of Seventeen, failed to muster much of an audience in its first weekend out. Hailee Steinfeld’s sharp coming-of-age film offers a brutally honest (and brutally funny) depiction of teenagers (warts and all, but mostly warts), but it didn’t have a prayer up against Fantastic Beasts and some are questioning the wisdom of moving it from its original September release date to now. It will end the weekend with $4.8 million, although it should eventually recoup its $9 million costs and hopefully gain a cult following on home release. There have been some really good coming-of-age films this decade (The Way, Way Back, The Duff, Spectacular Now and Mud), but the genre once dominated by John Hughes has sadly been pushed into the indie fringes by YA franchises. In fact, I think the last big teen comedy hit may have been 2010’s Easy A.
Speaking of dead genres, Miles Teller’s Bleed for This put a nail in the boxing film coffin. The film, based on the comeback of Vinny Paz after a car accident that left him with a broken neck, failed to offer much to separate it from others in the genre beyond a strong Aaron Eckhart performance and it generated absolutely no buzz. It tanked at the box office, grossing a measly $2.3 million. The $6 million film, however, won’t have much of a write-off.
The same cannot be said for Ang Lee’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, which fared even worse at the box office. After grossing a whopping $115,000 in two theaters last weekend, the film expanded to over 1,000 locations nationwide and bombed, putting up only $888,000. The melancholy film about a soldier returning home with PTSD cost an estimated $40 million, but it likely won’t break $2.5 million before it is quickly ushered out of theaters. It will go down as one of the bigger misfires of 2016.
One bright spot in this week’s box office was Casey Affleck’s Manchester by the Sea, which will surpass Billy Lynne for the third-highest per-screen average of the year, making $230,000 in only four theaters. Let’s hope the phenomenally reviewed Kenneth Lonergan film fares better than Billy Lynne as it rolls out wide in the coming weeks.
In holdover news, Trolls held on to the second spot, flip-flopping with November 4th’s other wide release, Doctor Strange. Strange took a 65 percent tumble in its third week and will end the weekend with $16.5 million (and $180 million cumulative), while Trolls‘ $16.9 million brings it to $115 million after 10 days. This weekend, Doctor Strange also surpassed the domestic takes of Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger and Ant-Man and it will probably tap out at number 9 among films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, behind Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Not bad for what was essentially a trippy, big-budget Doctor Who episode.
In at fourth place this weekend, the poignant and hopeful Arrival added another $11 million to bring its 10-day total to a modest $42 million. The genial Almost Christmas finished fifth with $6.6 million, bringing its two week total to $25 million (like This Christmas and The Best Man holiday, it looks to be a solid showing for another Christmas film with an all-black cast). Meanwhile, Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge $6 million will bring its 3 week total to $42 million, in line with its production budget. In its 6th week, Ben Affleck’s goofy but entertaining The Accountant added another $2 million to bring its total to $81 million, and last weekend’s forgettable Shut In rounds out the top ten with $1.6 million.