Box Office: ‘Fantastic Beasts’ Roaring to $75 Million Opening Weekend in U.S.

Dave McNary

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” is heading for a magical opening weekend in the $75 million range, early estimates showed Friday.

The “Harry Potter” spinoff, starring Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander, is performing in line with recent forecasts. The film is set to earn $30 million, which includes $8.8 million from Thursday night showings, on Friday. The Warner Bros. movie will play at 4,144 North American locations this weekend.

“Fantastic Beasts,” written by “Potter” author J.K. Rowling, cost $180 million to make and will serve as the springboard for a five-film franchise. The first film follows Scamander as he tries to retrieve magical creatures that have escaped from his valise, and are running wild through 1926 New York City.

The cast boasts Colin Farrell, Dan Fogler, Katherine Waterston, and Samantha Morton. David Yates, who directed the last four “Harry Potter” movies, is helming and is already on board for the second movie. “Fantastic Beasts” has generated decent critical support with a 74% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Warner Bros. launched the last “Potter” movie, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2” five years ago. The finale opened with a whopping $169.1 million in the U.S., and finished with $381 million domestically and $1.34 billion worldwide.

“Fantastic Beasts” has also launched in 47 international markets, earning $23.5 million between Wednesday and Thursday. It opens in 16 more territories on Friday, including the U.K. and Mexico.

The third weekend of DreamWorks Animation’s “Trolls,” distributed by Fox, looks likely to wind up runner-up with $15 million, edging the third frame of Disney-Marvel’s “Doctor Strange” with about $13.5 million. Paramount’s second frame of “Arrival” should end up fourth at about $11 million.

“Doctor Strange” debuted to $85.1 million domestically on Nov. 4-6 and has grossed $161.7 million in its first 13 days.

STX Entertainment’s “The Edge of Seventeen,” an R-rated high-school dramedy starring Hailee Steinfeld, appears to be heading for a $6 million debut at 1,945 sites. That’s well below expectations of a $10 million opening weekend. Critics have embraced “Seventeen” with a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Open Road is seeing minimal traction for boxing biopic “Bleed for This,” starring Miles Teller as Vinny Pazienza, with projections for about $3 million at 1,549 locations.

Following a slow start, the fall season is ending with a one-two punch from “Fantastic Beasts” and “Doctor Strange.” Disney’s animated “Moana” is expected to perform well when it opens on Nov. 23, the day before Thanksgiving, and its “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” should dominate when it launches on Dec. 16.

“The current mix of large-scale blockbusters and must-see art house fare make this a perfect marriage of content showing up at the right time in the right place that we call the multiplex,” Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at comScore, said. “Notably, fall box office that was down by as much as 16% through mid-October has now narrowed the gap to a tiny 1.90% deficit vs. 2015 through Wednesday of this week.”

“This resurgence was built on the back of a wide ranging group of titles that have truly inspired enthusiastic audiences to flock to the movie theater,” he added. “This is a great way to build momentum as we head into what looks to be a spectacular holiday movie season.”

A comScore survey showed that 61% of audience-goers rated “Fantastic Beasts” as “excellent,” while 29% thought it was “very good.”

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