Crimes of Grindelwald: Box Office Score

Good news and bad news about the performance of Crimes of Grindelwald at the box office in the US and overseas! Forbes magazine reports:

In other arbitrary milestones, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald has now earned $611m worldwide on a $200m budget. This is a decent-enough total, down a reasonable 25% from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’s $814m but 33% below the last film’s $232m domestic cume.

If it wasn’t the second of a five-part franchise, I’d be less concerned about the future. But maybe Fantastic Beasts 3 will be a big improvement and the fans will give it a second chance.

The bad news is fairly obvious. This was the weakest performance by a Warner Brothers ‘Wizarding World’ franchise film ever. The controversies about Johnny Depp, the assertion that ‘Gay Dumbledore’ was undeniably in evidence in Beasts 2 and that the Pensieve of Erised moments reflected a sexual relationship between two men, and the multitude of not quite meshing subplots on top of scene cuts by the director (who thinks he gets story-telling better than this screenwriter?) may have dulled enthusiasm among the Potter faithful in the United States, at least. Or a host of other reasons. Let the speculation and blame-casting begin!

Rowling and Company by their shouting out ‘Impeach Trump!’ at fan conventions and The Presence on her twitter feed, telling those offended by their refusal to dump Depp (because of the accusations of his using violence against his ex-wife) to take a hike, and the huzzahs for gay sex from Ezra Miller in a country where a significant population is not on that bandwagon means they managed somehow to offend right, left, and center. Earnings are down. Folks may not want political correctness or indifference mixed in with their magical movies. Surprise!

That said, the good news in this earnings report is just as obvious. The film turned a profit in the vicinity of 400 million US dollars. They’re not packing up shop because the film ‘bombed’ relative to other Rowling franchise movies. Only the Marvel Universe and Harry Potter films have to break a billion dollars before going to DVD to be considered a success. 611 million dollars pays a lot of bills. We’re going to get five films even if the next two also lose 25% globally and 33% domestic.

As the Forbes reviewer noted with “maybe Fantastic Beasts 3 will be a big improvement,” all Team Wizarding World has to do to return to billion dollar land may be to make a less confusing movie and stop shooting themselves in the foot by making the films a referendum on social justice, the US President, and sexual adventurism. More Tina-Loves-Newt, less Albus-Misses-Gellert-Who-Grooms-Credence? More Eddy, less Ezra?Rowling has already pledged that we will “get answers” in the next film; I’m guessing that means she’s been told to straighten out the mess David Yates made out of Crimes in the cutting room (and give him a more straight film — in the various senses of that word — to shoot).

Why do you think Crimes didn’t do nearly as well as Beasts1? Was it the content, the confusion of plots, the twist at the close, wizard fatigue, Paris, politics, or what? Click on the ‘Leave a Comment’ up by the headline and let me know your best guess.



  1. ‘The film turned a profit in the vicinity of 400 million US dollars’ – That’s not quite the way it works. Theaters get a percentage of the box office receipts as well. Roughly 45 to 50% in the U.S and up to 75% in China. We also don’t know if any of the actors get a percentage of the backend profits. The movie will come out in the black but the profit will probably be 100 million at the most. Don’t forget, WB claimed they lost money on Order of the Phoenix (I think it was that one).

  2. So… Beasts3 had better be good! Thank you for these insights and percentages; I am, as you have discerned already, truly clueless about the film industry. Back to the books!

  3. Melissa D Aaron (Moonyprof) says

    Most of the media coverage I read, and what was reflected in my college classroom, was that Dumbledore and his relationship with Grindelwald was not clearly gay enough, that Rowling was being unfair in suggesting that Dumbledore was gay only after the series was over and the character was dead, that it was “queerbaiting,” and that Rowling was trying to score some cheap points for diversity. Google it. I swear that is what you will come up with. People were unhappy with Nagini, too: that she was an Asian woman who was destined to become a white man’s “pet.” Add to that the controversy about Johnny Depp, and you had a very explosive cocktail indeed.

    The only thing I feel sure of is that Rowling did not “pull things out of her….” or change things to score cheap points, or in fact do anything but tell the story she meant to tell. The Johnny Depp situation is bad. If it had broken just a few months later, during the first outrage at Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and Matt Lauer’s systematic abuse and harassment, he might have been taken off the project. Otherwise, I am inclined to trust Rowling when she states that she’s always known that Nagini was once a human woman, or that Professor McGonagall was in the earlier flashbacks for a reason. She simply isn’t that careless. She also is not, and never was, a goddess or superheroine. She is a very clever writer, and a flawed human being, with, I suspect, a very big heart, or she would not have set up and take such an interest in helping unfortunate children.

    What can be “fixed” with FB 3? Honestly, just carry through and tell the story as best they can. It’s true that the movie didn’t work well as a stand alone piece. I think a lot of things will be clearer later. I also hope she’ll take a bit of care as Newt travels around the globe. She stepped on some toes with the Native American content in the History of Magic in North America. Some consultation would really do wonders.

  4. I’ll probably write this out as a different post, Melissa, one about what FB3 has to do to save the series, but I’m on board with and grateful for all your observations here, especially your conclusion that “Some consultation would really do wonders”! If I were a citizen of any country in South America, I would be dreading the Rio chapter in the FB series as much as looking forward to it. It’s hard to count the ways the WB presentation of Brazil in the 30’s could go wrong.

    I’m guessing from the Yates-Heyman interview in which David H said that he loved how David Y had made the sexual relationship so explicit in the Mirror (?) of Erised scene that the studio take-away from the relatively poor box office was that they hadn’t made Gay Dumbledore sufficiently explicit and that this disappointed the LGBTQ+ faction of fandom. This would suggest we’ll see more on this subject and in more striking fashion in FB3.

    Except for that comment, I would have thought the Bean Counters at Warner Brothers would have concluded just the opposite, namely, that the celebration of Gay Dumbledore both in the run-up to the film, especially by the outspokenly queer Ezra Miller, and in the film itself muted enthusiasm for the film among the great majority of American film goers who are not LGBTQ+ in orientation or sympathy and that the Young Albus-Gellert friendship as an intimate one would be a subject played down in subsequent films, as much as that is possible. FB1 was something of a romantic comedy with wands for straight people and it did much better in the financials than FB2 in which there was exactly one Tina-Newt and Queenie-Jacob relationship moment that wasn’t a downer.

    Or maybe David H made the comment in David Y’s defense because the Bean Counters had already told them that the Pensieve of Erised scene was a disaster, as was FB2 all together, and that FB3 and its promotional materials/canned interviews had better all be about the love story of the Goldstein sisters, Newt, and Jacob and their fight against Grindelwald? It’s not fandom who didn’t show up to watch this movie but the world of film goers who only know Harry Potter from the film adaptations and don’t give a fig for the controversies about Depp, Nagini, McGonagall, First Nations, or any other SJW issue, real or manufactured. They just want an adventure and a love story they can follow, one with a happy ending of Boy and Girl together at last.

    My bet is that Rowling and the Davids have been told that this is their FB3 mission — and to stop with the Trump bashing and rainbow flag waving and paying film goer alienation all together. That is the job of Bean Counters, especially those who dish out $200 million dollar servings of beans at a time.

  5. Kelly Loomis says

    John, I disagree that “it’s not fandom who didn’t show up…”. There WAS a big portion of fandom that didn’t show up. There seems to be a split in fandom these days that sometimes goes the same as the worldwide political splits. Many who grew up with Potter and believe it helped mould their beliefs and convictions about people, think Rowling has sold out. They have become the social justice police – believing every work should explicitly champion their causes. Dumbledore/Grindelwald not being explicit (showing a kiss or obvious sexual
    involvement), the Nagini controversy and the Depp casting are seen as betrayals by Rowling. It’s almost as if Rowling has “raised” a generation that evaluates any work through SJW glasses. She is reaping her own medicine.

    That being said, many people inside and outside of fandom feel she is just milking the story for profit – that it should be put to rest and the Potter world has run its course. .

    Also, she is changing “canon” in their minds. No matter that it’s her story and many of these thoughts have been in her head for 20 years. There is a type of ownership over the stories.

    Although the cultural issues surrounding Native Americans has definitely proven problematic, if this movie was anything to go by, not much of French wizarding society or culture was “hurt in the making of this film”. Brazil may be OK.

    Cursed Child started the ball rolling regarding fandom’s problems with what is or isn’t canon. Many (including you) do not believe the story should be “canon” even though Rowling claims it is.

    FB1 stood as a new installment. Characters and relationships were being introduced that fans enjoyed and wanted to see developed. Those being side lined for the sake of more “Potter” background I’m sure is disappointing for some

    All that being said, this film was problematic just from a stand alone film perspective. The convoluted and intricate plot, the introduction of so many character stories, the lack of an overall beginning to end story within the film and the obvious setup for more were not amenable to an average viewer. Only someone invested in the world, knowing minute wizarding world details and wanting more would know what was really happening in the film and would appreciate and understand and it. Whether this was due to many scenes being cut – therefore key information taken out – or Rowling’s novice screenplay experience, we wouldn’t know unless we saw the complete three hour version.

    So…with that convoluted answer, I would say it was a huge combination of factors!!

  6. We’ll have to agree to disagree, Kelly!

    Fandom is huge and global, I think we agree about that.

    The percentage of that fandom that cares about these issues, though, I’d estimate at 5-10% at the most, though they make up >90% of the commentary we read online.

    If that small group — which is only small relative to the global fandom — decided not to see the movie (and I doubt very much even they didn’t see it once…), it wouldn’t have dropped the box office take as much as it did.

    The people who fill theater seats in sufficient numbers to break a billion dollars as the later Potter adaptations and all the Marvel films do aren’t the SJWs or those who know the Wizarding World well enough to get upset about canon issues. They’re people who love to see a fun, satisfying film that conforms to their idea of a story well told — and which doesn’t challenge their ideas of themselves.

    What these film goers understood from all the Rowling bashing and Ezra posturing before the film came out was that this movie was not going to be a lot of fun, that it was going to feature Gay Dumbledore, that it was a departure from movies they loved.

    A lot of them saw Crimes of Grindelwald anyway, of course. I think relatively few saw it multiple times (unless they were writing for this website). As you say, it was convoluted and confusing and, in that, unsatisfying. I’ll be very interested to see how much Ezra Miller is featured in FB3 publicity. That will be a decent gauge of whether WB is going to course correct and go with a straight romantic line, more Eddy, less Ezra, and promise “answers” rather than confusion and controversy.

    It’s not just the gay/straight issue, as you say and I said as well in my original post. But that and the other controversies stirred up by activist fandom cued the strillions of film goers who don’t share their political beliefs this movie was not a fun Harry Potter-esque experience. Their absence, not the fandom zealots,’ is what hurt vthe box office.

  7. Kelly Loomis says

    I agree that the mainstream audience was the group that hurt the money at the box office. But it was not because of the political/cultural issues pumped up by Ezra Miller. I really do think it was more to do with the story as told on screen and the terrible reviews it received. I was just making the point that within the fandom there are very disgruntled fans. When you can’t even get the majority of fandom going multiple times, I think it does affect the overall feeling of others. If even hardcore fans are avoiding it, then you’ve got some problems.

  8. I am a bit late reading this post and responding, but I wanted to say that I agree with you, John. You wrote, “…they managed somehow to offend right, left, and center…” Yes, they certainly did! I am a huge HP and FB fan, and I almost didn’t go see this movie opening weekend for a few reasons:

    1) I was concerned with what sounded like a stray from canon. After “Cursed Child” I am wary. I do not consider *that* book canon.
    2) I was concerned about an open sexual relationship between D and GG. This is not how the Dumbledore character was written in the original HP books, and would be written that way now as what exactly, a pay off to fans? She made an announcement long after the final book was published that Dumbledore was gay and rode on the wave of the cheers of that announcement. I do not fully trust JKR with her announcements. Why? Because she claimed to like Narnia and then denied it. She obviously is influenced by Tolkein and then denies it. She sometimes seems to play to her crowd.

    Please understand, I have a great respect for her writing ability, I find her compassion for children and charities admirable, and she is someone who has inspired me to keep going as a single mom. I like her. I also am honest about the fact she is human and I am not going to agree with everything she does nor do I have to agree with her politics.

    A few months before the release I shut off all of my online fan feeds and they were driving me crazy and I wanted to see the movie “fresh” and unspoiled. I decided to see the movie after I saw a couple of trailers and felt I would really like it. In the end, I saw it 3 times. As a huge FB nerd I “got it” and wasn’t bewildered at all. I don’t think Credence is a Dumbledore and I think Queenie is “good”. I don’t know what JK is up to, but I do think we have a classic mis-direct going on of some sort. This was definitely not a stand-alone movie, but that didn’t bug me.

    What bugs me is all the negative press! I really want it all to be quiet. I am so tired of hearing about Johnny Depp, Nagini, Ezra, etc… Why can’t I hear about Newt? No one is talking about Newt. He is amazing! He is my favorite character and is just brilliant. The beasts are fabulous and I find this expanded world “magical”. I loved the movie, and I think if WB tones down the negativity, politics, and actually sticks to script they can have an amazing FB3. I know we all hope for a great 3rd movie. =)

    Thanks for all you do! I love reading the articles on this site.

  9. Kellyloomis says

    Anna, thank you for your fresh take. I, for one, and (I know John also) agree with your view of the fansites being slanted and negative. Much of the backlash has even been directed at Rowling as a person. We think much of it goes along with fandom’s social justice agenda. People and their work is attacked if it doesn’t align with certain perceived notions of right and wrong.

    Including the original beginning scene and the deleted scenes would have helped in making what many think of a convoluted story more understandable. As to going against canon, only Rowling can know. John believes Queenie to be the Snape of this story as you do. And we are all looking forward to the explanation of Credence’s identity!!

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