J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter spin-off Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them topped the Friday box office with $29.7 million from 4,144 theaters, putting the prequel on course to gross $75 million or more for the weekend.
Fantastic Beasts, grabbing an A CinemaScore from audiences, is a crucial test for Warners and Rowling as they look to continue the Harry Potter franchise with five new films that won't feature boy wizard himself. The film is set 70 years before the events in Harry Potter, and features a wizarding world populated by adults.
The movie, rated PG-13, is also launching around the world this weekend, where it earned another $30 million on Friday for a three-day foreign cume of $53.6 million and worldwide tally of $83.3 million. Globally, it should take in $200 million through Sunday.
In the U.S., Fantastic Beasts played notably older than the final two Harry Potter movies, with 65 percent of the audience over the age of 25 compared to 56 percent and 55 percent for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1 and Part 2, respectively. At the same time, there was a large concentration of moviegoers in the 25-35 age range, with 55 percent of Friday's audience under the age of 35.
It is opening well behind the eight Harry Potter films, based on Rowling's blockbuster box series, but Warners and some box-office observers stress it is a spin-off.
From a script by Rowling, the fantasy-adventure stars Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander, a collector of magical creatures who travels to 1920s New York, where several of his creatures get out. He teams with a pair of magical sisters (Katherine Waterston and Alison Sudol) and a muggle (Dan Fogler) to get them back, while also facing a much darker threat to the magical world.
David Yates helmed the $180 million film from the script by Rowling, who is also writing the scripts for the next four Fantastic Beasts films.
With Fantastic Beasts and holdovers dominating, the three other new films opening nationwide this weekend could use a protection spell as they all come in behind Fantastic Beasts, Trolls, Doctor Strange, Arrival and Hacksaw Ridge.
Based on early returns, STX's edgy, R-rated coming-of-age drama Edge of Seventeen is projected to open to $5 million-$6 million from 1,549 theaters for a seventh-place finish. The $9 million film, earning $1.7 million Friday, had hoped to launch in the $10 million range.
Bestowed with glowing reviews and an A- CinemaScore, Edge of Seventeen stars Hailee Steinfeld as an awkward teen dealing with her friend falling for her brother, and was directed by Kelly Fremon Craig in her directorial debut. It also stars Blake Jenner and Woody Harrelson.
Open Road's boxing biopic Bleed for This is getting knocked out in its debut despite an A- CinemaScore. The film is projected to gross $2 million-$3 million for the weekend from 1,459 theaters after taking in less than $900,000 on Friday. Bleed for This stars Miles Teller as Vinny Pazienza, a boxer who attempts to make a comeback after a terrible car accident. The film, directed by Ben Younger, also stars Katey Sagal and Aaron Eckhart.
Ang Lee's Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk is bombing as it expands expands nationwide into 1,176 theaters after opening last weekend in New York and Los Angeles. The Sony/TriStar movie may only gross $1 million for the weekend, an even worse launch than last year's The Walk, which opened to $1.5 million from 448 theaters. Sony studio chief Tom Rothman made both titles when running TriStar and before being named chairman of Sony's Motion Picture Group.
Lee's modern-day war drama was shot with groundbreaking technology that virtually no theater can project without new equipment, so it is playing in a digital format everywhere save for a select few theaters. Billy Lynn grossed $350,000 on Friday.
With Hollywood entering the heart of awards season, several high-profile releases debut in select theaters at the specialty box office this weekend, including Tom Ford's Nocturnal Animals, from Focus Features, and Kenneth Lonergan's Manchester by the Sea, from Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions. Manchester, launching in four cinemas in New York in Los Angeles, is projected to post the strongest location average of the weekend, or more more than $50,000. Nocturnal Animals is opening in more locations, or 37 cinemas, for a projected average north of $13,000.
Nov. 18, 1 p.m. PT: Updated with revised weekend estimates.
Nov. 19, 7:30 am PT: Updated with Friday results and revised weekend estimates.