The Secrets of Dumbledore Box Office: 67% Drop from First Weekend Gate

Fans of the Fantastic Beasts film franchise have been watching the gate receipts for the latest installment, Secrets of Dumbledore, attentively and with some trepidation. Secrets had the worst opening weekend and first week of any of the Wizarding World movies and then had the second-biggest drop-off in its second week. reported after the first week that Secrets has to make $750 million to break even:

“The Secrets of Dumbledore” debuted to a $43 million gross this weekend, about $20 million less than “The Crimes of Grindelwald”’s opening weekend in 2018. To make matters worse, this film has a $200 million budget. Factoring in marketing expenses, the domestic-international split of the franchise and the theater’s share of box office revenue, the film likely needs to gross around $705 million worldwide, of which $175 million is domestic, to break even. With a $43 million opening weekend domestically, “The Secrets of Dumbledore” has virtually zero chance to gross that in North America, unless it has some magical legs. The film will likely close around $110 million domestically, perhaps worse depending on the trend next week. 

The second week numbers are in and it looks like the $110 million break-even target won’t be reached. Per

After having the Wizarding World franchise’s lowest opening weekend, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore had a massive box office drop in just its second weekend of release. The film lost 67% of its business in a week, only gaining $14 million in the process. This decline is mostly because of newer, more interesting releases, such as Universal Pictures’ animated adventure film The Bad Guys, which topped the weekend box office for April 25, 2022. Additionally, although The Secrets of Dumbledore performed better internationally, it remained a commercial disappointment domestically. This arguably reveals a disinterest in the franchise, thus raising questions about its future.

ScreenRant thinks Warner Brothers will protect its Wizarding World franchise, with all its lucrative theme parks, merchandising properties, and new gaming programs, by shifting from the seemingly cursed Beasts movies to a filmed version of the Cursed Child play. Daniel Radcliffe is already saying he’s not interested, at least not right now, which of course is what he must say to get Warner Brothers to give him a significant payout.

Three quick notes about all this after the jump! Did Warner Brothers make this film with the expectation that it would be the series closer?

(1) Hollywood Accounting: I hope Daniel Radcliffe gets a great deal if he signs on to play Harry Potter in the Cursed Child film adaptation. Here’s the thing. The way filmmakers report profit and loss, no one outside of the specific corporation can tell whether a film made money or not — and as often as not actors do not get paid as they should, especially if they were naive enough to sign for a small up-front payment and “points” of gross rather than net profit.

The wikipedia page on ‘Hollywood Accounting” was a revelation to me (hat tip to Nick Jeffery for his recommendation that I read it). Did you know that Return of the Jedi was scored a net loss for LucasFilm? Closer to home, that the adaptation of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix lost $167 million?

Warner Bros. receipt was leaked online, showing that the hugely successful movie Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix ended up with a $167 million loss on paper after grossing nearly $1 billion.[27] This is especially egregious given that, without inflation adjustment, the Wizarding World film series is the third highest-grossing film series of all time both domestically and internationally, after Star Wars and the Marvel Cinematic UniverseHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 remains the highest-grossing movie ever for Warner Bros.[28] The Hollywood accounting in the Harry Potter case included a $60 million interest charge on a $400 million budget over two years – an interest rate far higher than industry standard[29] — as well as high distribution and advertising fees paid out to Warner Bros. subsidiaries and sister companies.

My take-away from all that is we’re never really going to know if Secrets of Dumbledore made a ton of money, lost hundreds of millions, or just broke even.

(2) Could the Decision to Drop Beasts Have Been Made Before It Was Filmed? These films are ridiculously expensive to make. Rowling’s contract was negotiated by a former Hollywood insider and forever barracuda barrister so she’s getting an outsized cut, bigger than any other screenwriter ever. The ensemble cast isn’t coming cheap, either, and the CGI budget as well as the historical costuming and scenery, not to mention the exotic locales make this franchise a Titanic-sized operation that has to be built and leave port every few years even if the previous crossings wound up on the bottom of the North Atlantic.

And could there be more problems on a set? The actors and producers have stated publicly that the screenwriter’s comments about transgender overreach are transphobic and bigoted. The biggest star of the ensemble, Jonny Depp, has been forced out (and I assume he got a big check in exchange for leaving quietly) because of unproven assertions that he abused his ex wife during their relationship. Ezra Miller, a relative nobody compared to Depp, has proven to be as profoundly unstable as the persona he celebrates; he has been accused of attacking people arbitrarily and with intent to inflict bodily harm. And of course Pandemania made the filming and release of Beasts3 a nightmare. They kowtow to the Chinese Communist Party by making Chinese mythological beasts hallmarks of the second and third films and editing out a conversation the CCP found objectionable (can you say, “Don’t Say Gay”?) because this market is their biggest outside the US — and half their theaters are closed because of another virus.

My guess, based on Rowling’s actively distancing herself from the project, Ezra Miller’s madness in Hawaii the week of the premiere, and the call from critics watching the film to end the series here (cynically assuming that these writers have an idea that this is a serious possibility), is that Warner Brothers decided in 2020 that Secrets would be the last Fantastic Beasts blockbuster movie. They made the film, marketed it, et cetera, just in case it outperformed all their expectations, but that they let the players know that this was the swan song unless Box Office proved to be a Black Swan event.

If this conjecture is true, Rowling gave them her screenplay and walked away from it, all but indifferent to the film’s success. Why should she want to continue to participate in a creative venture, to front it, when the players profiting from it at least as much as she does libel her shamelessly with respect to her positions about transgender activists?

(3) Best Possible Scenario: The LP is skipping on this point, I know, but I’ll repeat once again the hope that The Presence writes up her Fantastic Beasts series as novels. She’s done all the creative work, by which I mean “the planning,” and should (a) cash in on the work she has done, (b) demonstrate how the filmmakers butchered her stories, and (c) position her agent to get better guarantees of story control in the inevitable film adaptations (or get the copyright back and expand Bronte Studios to make the films herself). Personally, I’d like it if she refused to work with anyone in Hollywood that threw her under the WOKE double-decker bus. You’ll note that the stars of her Cormoran Strike teevee adaptations haven’t behaved as the Hollywood stars have.

Regardless, it’s looking bad for the Fantastic Beasts film franchise fandom.  Intentional or not, it looks dead in the water.

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