"Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" had no trouble finding first place at the box office this weekend, if not in as magical a fashion as some expected.
The "Harry Potter" spinoff, which stars Eddie Redmayne as a wizard in 1920s New York, collected an estimated $75 million in the U.S. and Canada, a fine opening ahead of a holiday week, when movie-going typically increases.
But "Fantastic Beasts," based on a screenplay by J.K. Rowling, arrived in theaters under pressure to perform exceptionally well. The movie cost $180 million to produce, and kicks off a five-film series based on the wizarding world for its studio, Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros.
An opening closer to $90 million would have eased concerns about whether the audience appetite was keen enough to support such an undertaking. On the positive side: An "A" grade from opening-weekend audiences surveyed by the CinemaScore market research firm suggests the film will get strong word-of-mouth.
Overseas, the movie collected an additional $143.3 million. It hasn't yet opened in China, the world's second-largest market for movie tickets.
"Fantastic Beasts" had an older opening-weekend audience than the "Harry Potter" movies that set the box office ablaze from 2001 to 2011, said Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros.' president of domestic distribution.
The studio expects the movies to draw in younger crowds as the series progresses, he said, especiallysince many original "Harry Potter" fans are having children of their own.
"Fantastic Beasts" kicks off a yearslong effort by Warner Bros. to build a franchise that can keep the "Harry Potter" world alive. The first "Fantastic Beasts" sequel is slated to hit theaters in November 2018. The studio's other franchises include "The Lego Movie" productions and adaptations of DC Comics, including next year's "Wonder Woman."
Mr. Goldstein said the "key point" of the initial "Fantastic Beasts" movie was to "get audiences interested and want to participate in this world." The movie's opening, he said, was in line with what the studio expected for the start of a series not as well known as the original "Harry Potter" stories.
As "Fantastic Beasts" sucked up all the box-office oxygen for new releases, three other arrivals flopped hard.
"Edge of Seventeen," a coming-of-age comedy from STX Entertainment starring Hailee Steinfeld, collected a measly$4.8 million. "Bleed for This," a boxing drama starring Miles Teller and distributed by Open Road Films, was KO'd, taking in just $2.4 million.
"Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk," about a soldier who returns home from war an uncomfortable hero, posted one of the worst wide-release openings in recent history. It collected $930,000 and follows other recent disappointments for the TriStar Productions label at Sony Corp.'s Sony Pictures Entertainment that include "Ricki and the Flash" and "The Walk."
In other box-office news, "Manchester By the Sea," a critically acclaimed family drama by director Kenneth Lonergan, collected an impressive $241,000 from four locations in New York and Los Angeles. The movie is being distributed by Roadside Attractions and Amazon Studios, a production division of e-commerce giant Amazon.com Inc. Amazon paid $10 million for distribution rights to the film at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.
Writeto Erich Schwartzel at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
November 20, 2016 20:35 ET (01:35 GMT)
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