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Monday Mixer: 'Fantastic Beasts' enjoys a 'Harry Potter' push

Posted Monday, November 21, 2016 at 2:50 PM Central
Last updated Monday, November 21, 2016 at 2:51 PM Central

by John Couture

It's funny how quickly things can change. Last week, we were sweltering under the rising mercury as temperatures soared in excess of 80 degrees. This week, snow is making its annual return up north and we have sub-freezing temperatures down here in the South.

Cold weather is usually good for the box office as people turn to the big screen for their entertainment options as it becomes less ideal to spend time out in the elements. And yet, this weekend's box office performance is a mixed bag at best and might portend a long, cold winter indeed.

To be fair, the box office had been over performing in early November, so it's tough to get a real read on this weekend's numbers. Was this just a bump in the path or does it signal a far more ominous tone?

Warner Bros. had been circling this weekend on the calendar for the last couple of years. It was the return of the Harry Potter world (sort of) to the big screen and it was pretty much assumed that it would dominate the box office. Again, the results were mixed and might simply just mean that Warner Bros. is in for a long decade.

And yet, will Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them spark a new level of interest with new fans? Again, time will tell.

Box Office 411

I'm not really sure where Warner Bros. was hoping that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them would open at. I would think that they were hoping it would at least open better than the worst Harry Potter films and were secretly expecting an opening just over $100 million.

The problem though is that while Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is based in the same world as Harry Potter, there is very little to connect them. In fact, there are very few familiar things that fans of the franchise will see in the new film. With that taken into consideration, its $75 million opening is rather impressive, but it the lowest opening ever for a "Harry Potter" film.

The real telling sign though might be the legs. With the holidays coming up, will the film hold on well and earn close to $300 million? Or will it wilt quickly leading to a total closer to $225 million? Up to now, the lowest grossing Harry Potter film sits right at $250 million, so that's the benchmark.

With Warner Bros. aggressively planning five total Fantastic Beasts films, they are clearly hoping for a final tally closer to $300 million. The problem though is that the original films had fans from the book series, while Fantastic Beasts is starting from scratch, so to speak. Sure, the Harry Potter will be there and from all measures, it does appear they showed up this weekend, but the real key will be if they can make inroads to the under-25 set, those kids who didn't grow up necessarily reading the Harry Potter books.

It's only been five years since the last Harry Potter film hit theaters, but it's been close to a decade since the last book was first published. I haven't seen Fantastic Beasts yet, but it seems to me from the previews that they are targeting a slightly older demographic than the original Harry Potter series. That might just be a winning strategy as the original fans of the franchise age and look for new adventures in this wizarding world.

Two other new films failed to find sizable audiences during their opening frame. In seventh place, The Edge of Seventeen managed to bring home $4.8 million which was a far cry short of expectations for the film starring Hailee Steinfeld and Woody Harrelson. The studio was hoping the next Juno, instead, they got something more akin to Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.

That's not a bad thing per se, I loved Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, but neither it nor The Edge of Seventeen set the box office on fire and that has to grate at their production studios. As it stands, The Edge of Seventeen will be lucky to make it up to $15 million.

In eighth place, Bleed for This was knocked out with only $2.4 million for the movie based on a true story about a boxer that makes a miraculous return to the ring after a horrific car accident. The Miles Teller-starrer will be lucky to crawl to $10 million.

No "Quick Hitters" today. Too much stuff to pack into an abbreviated week. I hope to have some next week.