Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald has earned $117 million domestic so far (that’s not great) and $322m overseas (that’s a lot better). The $200m-budgeted David Yates fantasy sequel has grossed $438m worldwide in just under two weeks of global theatrical release. In a skewed bit of irony, the film is falling hard in North America and China, where it dropped 82% in its second weekend and has earned $51m thus far, but doing fine in the rest of the world. Fantastic Beasts 2’s respective total ($438m) is just 8% behind the respective end-of-Thanksgiving total for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. It’s 25% behind in North America and won’t come anywhere near the first film’s $86m total in China. But, thus far, it’s performing relatively well outside of North America.
Warner Bros. always expected a domestic dip, although maybe closer to Star Trek Into Darkness ($229 million compared to $256m Star Trek) than X-Men: Apocalypse ($155 million compared to $233m for X-Men: Days of Future Past). The difference is that it’s not China that’s saving the movie overseas. X-Men: Apocalypse earned $121m in China which powered the film to $543m worldwide. At the moment, the movie has a 26.6/73.4 domestic overseas split, which is more overseas than any prior “Wizarding World of J.K. Rowling” movie. If it continues compensating overseas for a domestic downturn, we could still see a $600m-$650m global total. Whether that qualifies as good is frankly dependent on if the poor word-of-mouth for Crimes of Grindelwald has done real damage to Fantastic Beasts 3. That’s the key to this whole thing.
It may fall by around one-third in North America and China compared to Fantastic Beasts 1 while holding up closer to 20% in the rest of the world. Fantastic Beasts 1, sans China, earned $494 million. Fantastic Beasts 2, sans around $60m from China, may earn around $430m, which would be a reasonable 13% drop, identical to the overall overseas downturn from Jurassic World ($1.019 billion) to Fallen Kingdom ($888m). If Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald were A) a stand-alone story, B) an entirely episodic sequel or C) the penultimate chapter, then an over/under $650 million global cume would be cause for celebration. If the budgets adjust accordingly, there would be no shame in FB3 and FB4 hovering around $550m with the final chapter falling wherever it may in terms of global box office.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales earned 78% of its $795m overseas (including $177m in China, natch) and became the biggest live-action grosser of all time for a Hollywood movie that hadn’t passed $200m domestic. Yes, Disney is probably rebooting (or doing a sequel without Jack Sparrow), but only thing Pirates 5 was responsible for was Pirates 5, not getting folks excited about Pirates 6, 7 and 8. Paramount/Viacom Inc.’s Transformers: The Last Knight was a disaster with $605m specifically because it was A) a 40% drop from Age of Extinction and B) it was intended to get folks excited about a Transformers cinematic universe and next month’s Bumblebee. It’s the “Will folks ditch Fantastic Beasts in two years?” scenario that makes this performance anything less than “Fine, I guess.”
Presuming it doesn’t sink after Thanksgiving, it would mean that Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is doing about as well as can be expected almost everywhere except North America and China, which is quite ironic. While Johnny Depp may or may not have helped the film score big overseas, he certainly didn’t seem to have much of a negative effect outside of North America. So don’t expect Grindelwald to shape-shift back into Colin Farrell anytime soon. Moreover, the conundrum in which Fantastic Beasts now finds itself highlights the dangers of these explicitly long-form narratives. This isn’t Pirates 5 or Spectre whereby the filmmakers can essentially get a clean slate next time out. When it’s all one big story, in a franchise that puts plot over character, one poorly-received installment can sink the ship.
I’ve studied the film industry, both academically and informally, and with an emphasis in box office analysis, for 28 years. I have extensively written about all of said subjects for the last ten years. My outlets for film criticism, box office commentary, and film-skewing s… MORE