While Fantastic Beasts Opens Big (But Is It Big Enough?), All The Other Newcomers Are Big Failures. Is Miles Teller Done? And What Was Ang Lee Thinking?

It came as no surprise that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was the top movie at the North American box office last weekend. Number one by a mile, in fact. It’s 74.4 million dollar opening was in a completely different postal code than Doctor Strange, which settled for runner up in its third weekend out with a distant 17.6 million (don’t feel bad for the good Doctor though. He’s already brought in over 181 million domestically and over 570 million worldwide). But the question everyone is asking now is if 74 million is good enough?

Fantastic Beasts isn’t a mere spinoff; it’s the beginning of a five-picture franchise in the Harry Potter universe (all written by Potter architect J.K. Rowling and directed by Potter veteran David Yates). And based on the stratospheric numbers the eight Harry Potter adaptations grossed, 74 million may seem a little underwhelming. For most other franchises, 74 million is a petty good weekend’s work, but the Potterverse is no normal franchise (the lowest any Harry Potter movie opened was 77 million). So how good is this performance? Beasts has enjoyed excellent reviews but it might take some time for audiences to adjust to a set of entirely new characters (not to mention the more mature, arguably darker tone these movies look like they’re taking). After all, Harry and Ron all had the benefit of being introduced in one of the most beloved (and highest selling) book series of all time before appearing on screen. Newt, Jacob and Tina are relative strangers in comparison and if the rumours that none of those three are returning for 2018’s sequel are true, audiences will be forced to constantly adjust.

Another thing to keep in mind is that so far Beasts has appealed to an older movie audience; most likely fans who were kids themselves when the books and original movies were out. It’s estimated that 65% of the audience that caught it this weekend were 25 or older. Can Beasts eventually expand the fan base and wrangle in a generation of new, younger fans? It has the American Thanksgiving and Christmas vacation in a few weeks to try, but by that point it will be competing against Disney’s next animated super hit Moana (out this Wednesday) and Star Wars: Rogue One (December 16th). It will be very interesting to see what kind of legs Beasts has, especially when it will be trying to compete with in such a crowded arena for essentially the same movie goer.

DreamWorks Keeps Trolling the Box Office

In a much-needed win for both DreamWorks Animation and Fox, Trolls continues to both surprise and impress. It fell from second to third, but trailed Doctor Strange by less than two hundred thousand dollars domestically. The animated movie everyone expected to bomb has now grossed 116.1million domestically and 264 million worldwide. Odds are Moana will likely eat into whatever box office steam Trolls has left, but the colourful little sprites have nothing to be ashamed off. When it debuted a few weeks ago, it was only supposed to open with around 25 million. Instead it commanded over 45 million and has performed admirably (both at home and abroad) and looks like it could easily cross the 300 million dollar mark globally. The titular Trolls may be small, but the recently embattled DreamWorks can count this as a giant win.

Most Everything Else

Arrival, which had held strong its first week of release, plummeted 50% its second frame (a sharper than expected drop). Still, it was enough to hold on to fourth and while its current 43.7 million dollar total isn’t going to blow anyone away, it’s cost effective budget looks pretty good on Paramount’s end of year spreadsheets. In fifth place, Almost Christmas pulled in another 7.2 million and has easily exceeded its modest 17 million dollar budget. Mel Gibson looks like he may finally be back in Hollywood’s good graces with his war drama Hacksaw Ridge puling in a respectable 6.7 million for sixth place. Better yet, Gibson’s and star Andrew Garfield’s names continue to pop up in awards conversations.

Newcomer Edge of Seventeen opened in eighth with a disappointing 4.7 million despite strong critical reviews. Studio STX, which owned last summer’s breakout hit Bad Moms, was hoping for an opening around 10 million for the edgy teenage drama, and the only thing that looks like will save Seventeen is it’s 9 million dollar production budget.

Is Miles Teller Past His Best Before Date?

Another disappointing new arrival was the boxing drama Bleed For This, starring Miles Teller in the lead role. A supposed awards contender, Bleed For This was only able to muster 2.3 million despite predictions it would be able to snag around 5.5 (conservative predictions that were actually low balling the film’s chances). This could easily send Teller’s career into a deadly tailspin. Teller, if you remember, played the lead role in 2015’s Fantastic Four train wreck and starred (along with Jonah Hill) in last summer’s War Dogs, one of Warner Bros. few box office missteps this year. After so many critical and financial disasters, it’s difficult to see him getting any more starring roles for some time. Though if Mel Gibson can rehab his battered image, there’s hope for just about anyone.

What Was Ang Lee Thinking? And Keep An Eye on Both Manchester By The Sea and Casey Affleck’s Gossip Sheet

And speaking of disappointing openings, Ang Lee’s award bait Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk could be considered on of the biggest bombs of the year. Heavily promoted since the summer (where trailers were attached to a number of tent pole releases and would be blockbusters), Billy Lynn was wide released everywhere after previews in L.A. and New York the previous week. It couldn’t even muster a million dollars despite playing in over 1,100 theatres. Lee shot the entire film with technology few theatres can properly accommodate, and the groundbreaking experience of this new technology was Lynn’s primary selling point. It was the equivalent of shooting a movie in Blu-ray quality when you could only show it on VHS. This movie was doomed from the start and you have to question Lee’s logic behind the whole thing.

But keep an eye on Manchester By The Sea, an Amazon production staring Casey Affleck. Distributor Roadside Attractions is slowly rolling Manchester out, sneaking it into a few select cities here and there before its wide release in December. This weekend it averaged over 64,000 dollars per screen, nearly four times what top dog Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them averaged. Consider it a slow build to mainstream recognition and awards contention, though allegations of sexual misconduct in Affleck’s past may come back to haunt him if his name continues to pop up in Oscar conversations.

Numbers: Box Office Mojo
Image: Warner Bros Pictures