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 a $75 million or more for the weekend.
Fantastic Beasts, grabbing an A CinemaScore from audiences, is a crucial test as Warners and Rowling look to continue the Harry Potter franchise with five new films, albeit without the boy wizard himself. Critics have embraced the film, set 70 years before the events in Harry Potter. Most industry observers say a $75 million would be a good-enough start.
The movie is also launching around the world this weekend, where it took in $23.5 million on Wednesday and Thursday from its first raft of markets. Globally, it could take in $200 million through Sunday.
From a script by Rowling, the fantasty-adventure stars Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander, a wizard and 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 dominating, the three other new films opening nationwide this weekend could use a protection spell.
Based on early returns, STX's edgy coming-of-age drama Edge of Seventeen is projected to open in the $5 million-$6 million range from 1,549 theaters for a seventh-place finish, behind expectations, although the movie's budget was only $9 million. The film, earning an A- CInemaScore, 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 Bleed for This looks to get knocked out in ts debut. The boxing biopic is projected to gross $2 million-$3 million for the weekend from 1,459 theaters and despite an A- CinemaScore. 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 in dire trouble as it expands expands nationwide into 1,176 theaters after opening last weekend in New York and Los Angeles. The movie isn't expected to take in much more than $1 million, despite being released by Sony/TriStar, a major Hollywood studio. The modern-day war drama, from Sony/TriStar, 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 two theaters in New York and Los Angeles.
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.
Nov. 18, 1 p.m. PT: Updated with revised weekend estimates.