Is ‘Secrets’ Bombing at Box Office? Could This Be the Last Movie in Series?

From the day of the Beasts 3 premiere to the present, there have been rumors and suggestions that Warner Brothers pack up shop at the third installment and not draw out the agony of films four and five. I was searching for Box Office numbers for Secrets today and stumbled upon the YouTube movie maven above. I confess that while watching it I didn’t know if laughter, tears, or outrage were the right response. I mean, it could be a remarkable work of satire, between the Barbie hair and eyes, the accent, and the clueless arrogance.

What is the peak of that satirical summit? I think it’s a tough call, between her belief that Rowling will stand-down from her position contra the trans-activist over reach if The Presence would just realize it was cutting into her bottom-line and her assertion that Rowling is a proponent of gay conversion therapy, news that would probably come as a surprise to the lesbian women she lunched with last week who think she is only nominally ‘straight.’ This might not be uncut idiocy but a brilliant send-up instead of just how funny wrong-think can be. I doubt it, but I want to be generous with respect to the idea of Rowling selling all rights to the Wizarding World and walking away, the key idea of this video. That may be the craziest piece of the rant.

Anyway, taking a break from the brilliant reviews here the past two days, first from Beatrice Groves and next by Elizabeth Baird-Hardy (didn’t you always want to go to the movies with Edmund Spenser experts?), here are some box office numbers for Secrets of Dumbledore. All three of the number crunchers I found at reputable sources say that it’s time for Warner Brothers to cut their losses and fold up shop:

From Rotten Tomatoes:

Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them opened to $74.4 million the week before Thanksgiving in 2016 and went on to gross $234 million and over $814 million globally. The sequel, The Crimes of Grindelwald opened the same weekend in 2018 to half the positivity with critics (garnering a 37% on the Tomatometer compared to original’s Certified Fresh 74%) and $62.1 million which was multiplied by just 2.56 into $159.5 million. Thankfully for Warner Bros. its international take was still over $653 million and kept the $200 million-budgeted film in profit. Now comes Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore. $6 million in Thursday previews (which started in the early afternoon) suggested that a total between $50-55 million was possible this weekend. The final estimate rests at $43 million, which makes it the lowest opening weekend total of any Wizarding World film and does not bode well for the future of the franchise.

That is another 30% drop in its opening from the previous film and may spell the beginning of the end for this series. Internationally the film has made an additional $150 million, with the first two films doing $580 million and $494 million, respectively. The Secrets of Dumbledore could be headed for somewhere in the vicinity of $122 million if it doesn’t go full Morbius. That is going to put a $478 million burden on the international community. Even if WB were to pull that off, it seems highly unlikely they would risk going for another chapter, let alone two, when those grosses are likely to continue to plummet. Critics scored this third film at 49%, better than the third Divergent film for certain (which scored a dismal 11%). Pretty much everything is better than that franchise from the money on down (none of which reached $300 million worldwide), but the one thing they likely will have in common is that neither finished the full story they set out to tell.

From Variety:

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore,” the third chapter in the “Harry Potter” spinoff series, collected a muted $43 million in its domestic box office debut.

In pandemic times, those ticket sales were enough to lead this weekend’s box office charts and land one of the biggest North American openings in 2022. But it’s also a sign that magic is in short supply for J.K. Rowling’s lucrative and ever-expanding Wizarding World. Dinged by mixed reviews and growing apathy for prequel series star Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and company, “The Secrets of Dumbledore” stands as the worst start for a “Harry Potter”-adjacent movie. (Its predecessor, 2016’s “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” launched to $74 million in North America, while the 2018 follow-up “The Crimes of Grindelwald” bowed to $62 million.)

The diminishing enthusiasm for “Fantastic Beasts” is problematic because witchcraft and wizardry does not come cheap. Warner Bros. shelled out $200 million to produce “The Secrets of Dumbledore,” and the studio spent tens of millions more to promote the film to audiences across the globe. Like the franchise’s earlier entries, “The Secrets of Dumbledore” will be reliant on the international box office to make money in its theatrical run. The first two “Fantastic Beasts” installments — which ended with $814 million globally and $650 million globally, respectively — made nearly 75% of revenues from foreign sales.

“Fantastic Beasts 3,” too, has been a bigger draw to overseas audiences. Since the film touched down in several foreign markets last weekend, “The Secrets of Dumbledore” has grossed $193 million globally to date. But the persistence of COVID-19 has cut into the box office in China, where 50% of movie theaters are closed, while Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has meant that country is not granted access to Hollywood’s films. Those limitations have been difficult for all blockbusters. Since the pandemic began in 2020, only five Hollywood movies have generated at least $500 million at the global box office.

From Deadline:

SUNDAY AM UPDATE:  If there’s still a five-picture plan in place for Fantastic Beasts, clearly after this weekend’s $43M opening for The Secrets of Dumbledore, it’s time to pivot the Harry Potter franchise. That’s the lowest opening ever stateside for a J.K. Rowling Wizarding World movie, and it’s probably not prudent for the studio to go for another low opening record on the next project from the franchise. It was evident Potter fans didn’t like the last movie, Crimes of Grindelwald, even if there was a cliffhanger, and they didn’t want to come back for Dumbledore. 

With the Warner Bros.-Discovery merger made official on Wall Street earlier this week, this is unfortunately not the best optics for the studio. However, as CEO David Zaslav gets to know Hollywood, he should realize that sometimes greenlight decisions pre-date the studio’s current regime. Who would greenlight a $200M net production on a franchise that wasn’t working? The Fantastic Beasts movies were put into play by former Warner Bros. Entertainment CEO Kevin Tsujihara.

The continued production of these off-beat Potter canon movies are all about the studio’s commitment to their own George Lucas, meaning Rowling, and the further build-out of the Wizarding World which spans theme parks, stage shows, the set tours, etc.

The threequel’s production was pushed in 2019 so that the script could be developed more. However, as is the nature of bruised franchises at the box office, no matter how great a third installment could be conjured up, it’s hard to restore business after fans turn their backs on the previous movie.

Former Warner Bros London-based Warner Bros. exec Josh Berger, who gets an EP credit here on Dumbledore, ran the Wizarding World franchise until roughly a year-and-a-half ago. WarnerMedia Studios and Network exec Ann Sarnoff took on that oversight. I understand she had no fingerprints on this threequel, nor could she put the brakes on it; again the threequel’s production monies were committed by a previous administration.

There are no immediate, concrete plans for the Harry Potter franchise. It was buzzed back in early 2021 that a Harry Potter spinoff series was being kicked around for HBO Max, but no writers were attached at the time. There isn’t a script in for a fourth Fantastic Beasts. If reality didn’t set in for Rowling on Grindelwald, or even the first Fantastic Beasts movie, it should set in now: The majority of your Potter fans do not want to see Fantastic Beasts. 

That’s three thumbs down from the Hollywood bean counters and Box Office experts. Call me naive (or worse); I’m guessing that Warner Brothers/Discovery does not cancel the franchise or try to buy Rowling out, i.e., we’ll see films four and five.
What do you think?


  1. Elizabeth Smith says

    I wonder how COVID will play in? Streaming? Etc… These reviews seem unusually harsh. It is still doing well in the numbers for a COVID movie, if I understand the numbers correctly. I suspect that as word spreads it may pick up steam. People also have gotten used to Streaming new movies. How will that new habit factor in? Then again I wonder if cancel culture hurt this too much?

    It wasn’t perfect, but it is one of the best movies I have seen since the Theaters reopened. Spider-Man, of course, smashed this one to pieces. But, the fact is, I t is a movie families can go to. It is a movie that is charming, funny and helps us escape the horrors of today’s news. Escape movies are doing well right now.

    I also wonder: Is it possible we hold these movies to a higher standard than we should? The HP movies had novels first. We knew the story. We knew all the tiny details. FB movies aren’t from novels. I suspect it may be why we have trouble with them. We want all the little details, we want the nerdy information and we can’t have it. Movies are a different story telling format. You “show” you don’t tell — as a rule. That makes screen writing tricky for JK, maybe? JK is a novelist first. Steve Kloves did a great job with this script-taking her novel ideas and making them fit the cinematic medium. Not perfect – but good. Thoughts?

    I suppose I am easy to please. I love a good story and nerdy details. This movie had enough of both to make me happy and want the last two movies. I just want less media drama as that mess is starting to ruin this for me.

  2. Gwen Stacy says

    I wanna see Fantastic Beasts.

  3. David Llewellyn Dodds says

    I can imagine interest – and so viewer and box-office numbers – growing… But it would be grand if the series transitioned to JKR novels for FB4 & 5, followed by novels of 1-3!

  4. Jan Voetberg says

    I smiled while I watched that video: this is exactly what a Rita Skeeter vlog on the issue would look like.

  5. Brian Basore says

    All this excitement makes me wish I could see how The Daily Prophet is covering this, assuming that it is. There are lots of Rita Skeeters.

  6. Oh, how I wish I had thought to link this movie maven with Rita Skeeter — that is exactly her counterpart in the Wizarding World! Well spotted!

    I hope someone else will ‘follow’ her so we always have Rita’s perspective on all things Rowling.

  7. Kelly Loomis says

    This lady has always had a more Rita Skeeter review of these films. If she ever read the books, she has long forgotten what was in them. From what I have read – and I confess I don’t really don’t pay much attention to box office numbers – the film has picked up steam and is slowly adding to its numbers. The haters are hoping the films end here. I think this is more their projection than the reality.

    The Kloves takeover was apparent in this film. While the character development was rich, the subtlety and twists seen in Rowling’s writing seemed more dumbed down in this installment. It was definitely easier to follow without the confusion of the last film. If this continues, it will have more of a box office hit style than COG and will likely mean a continuation of the franchise. I wonder if Rowling’s lack of involvement in the marketing – she left the premiere after the red carpet having one short question/answer not shown on the WW broadcast and no other interviews in publications – was her choice or the choice of Warner Brothers. The haters are hoping it will be cancelled but I don’t see that happening at this point.

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