Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling can still cast a magic spell at the box office - although not as powerful sans the Boy Who Lived, at least in North America.
Warner Bros.' Harry Potter spinoff and prequel Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, from a script by Rowling, topped the weekend domestic box office with $75 million from 4,144 theaters, behind the openings of all eight Harry Potter movies but in line with other high-profile spinoffs, such as the Hobbit trilogy.
Overseas was a different matter, at least in numerous territories. Fantastic Beasts bowed to $143.3 million offshore for a global debut of $218.3 million, and it has yet to open in China and Japan. In South Korea ($14.3 million) and Russia ($9.8 million), it came in ahead of every Harry Potter film, while in the U.K., it earned $18.3 million, behind only the two final installments.
Fantastic Beasts, which grabbed an A CinemaScore from U.S. audiences, is a crucial test for Warners and Rowling as they look to further expand the Harry Potter Wizarding World with five new films set decades before the events in Harry Potter and featuring a magical new world populated by adults. Eddie Redmayne stars as Newt Scamander, a collector of magical creatures who travels to 1920s New York, where several of his creatures get out. (He's the author of a textbook later used by Harry Potter and other Hogwarts students.)
"This was a magical weekend that's the result of inspired storytelling by J.K. and kicks off five new movies," said Warner Bros. domestic distribution president Jeff Goldstein. "The Harry Potter films were all based on Rowling's books. Here, J.K. taught herself how to write an original screenplay, and she inspired all those many fans around the world and to take this ride with her."
In the U.S., Fantastic Beasts - rated PG-13 - 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. (Females made up 55 percent of ticket buyers overall.)
Disney and Marvel's Doctor Strange continued to wow as it crossed the $570 million mark globally, and will soon overtake fellow Marvel Cinematic Universe title Iron Man ($585 million) after already topping several other MCU installments.
However, the post-presidential election bump the box office enjoyed last weekend didn't last, as holdovers saw their usual drops. Doctor Strange, for example, fell 59 percent domestically to $17.7 million to place No. 2. Overseas, the pic took in another sturdy $26 million for a foreign total of $390 million and a global haul of $571.5 million. That includes $103 million in China, where Doctor Strange has exceeded the lifetime totals of superhero titles including Guardians of the Galaxy and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.
In North America, Fox and DreamWorks Animation's Trolls followed with $17.5 million to pass the $100 million mark domestically and finish Sunday with a $116.2 million cume in North America and $261.3 million worldwide. Paramount release Arrival placed No. 4 with $11.8 million for a domestic total of $43.4 million. And Universal's Almost Christmas rounded out the top five with $7 million for a domestic tally of $25.4 million.
After Fantastic Beasts, the three other new films opening nationwide this weekend fared poorly.
STX's edgy, R-rated coming-of-age drama The Edge of Seventeen debuted to $4.8 million for a seventh-place finish. The film, which cost $9 million to make, had hoped to launch in the $10 million range. "We were disappointed but we were very financially responsible, so we were able to take a creative risk," said Adam Fogelson, president of STX's Motion Picture Group.
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 helmed by Kelly Fremon Craig in her directorial debut. It also stars Blake Jenner and Woody Harrelson.
Open Road's boxing biopic Bleed for This fared even worse with $2.5 million from 1,459 theaters. The film stars Miles Teller as Vinny Pazienza, a boxer who attempts to make a comeback after a terrible car accident.
Ang Lee's Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk is the biggest bomb, earning an estimated $1 million from 1,176 theaters for Sony/TriStar after opening last weekend in New York and Los Angeles. That's even worse 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, which cost a net $40 million to produce, 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 debuted 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, which launched in four cinemas in New York and Los Angeles, grossed $241,230 for a location average of $60,308, one of the best showings of the year and best ever for Roadside.
Nocturnal Animals opted for a larger footprint, opening to $494,000 from 37 locations for a location average of $13,351. Both films hope to serve as strong counterprogramming over Thanksgiving weekend.
Nov. 20, 1 p.m. Updated with foreign numbers.