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'Fantastic Beasts' summons franchise low $43 million at North American box office

The third entry in the Harry Potter prequel series took the No. 1 spot at the weekend box office but fell short of the opening weekend grosses for the first two installments.
Jude Law, front, as Dumbledore in "Fantastic Beasts: Secrets of Dumbledore."
Jude Law, front, as Dumbledore in "Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore."Warner Bros.

“Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore,” the third installment in the Harry Potter prequel series, flew to the top of the North American box office this weekend with a $43 million debut, according to studio estimates Sunday.

However, the latest installment in the fantasy franchise fell short of the opening weekend domestic sales for the previous two installments: 2016’s “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” ($74 million) and 2018’s “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” ($62 million).

“We've seen the grosses edge downward with each of the 'Fantastic Beasts' films, [but] this is still another in a long line of No. 1 debuts for films in that orbit in the Harry Potter universe,” said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst at Comscore, a company that tracks box office data.

The film opened in 4,208 locations in North America, averaging $10,219 per location, according to Warner Bros. Pictures.

In some respects, the "Fantastic Beasts" series has been overshadowed by scrutiny of Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling's views on the transgender community, as well as the domestic abuse allegations against actor Johnny Depp, who was replaced in the role of Grindelwald by Mads Mikkelsen. Depp has denied the allegations.

“Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” a family-friendly video game adaptation in its second week of release, claimed the No. 2 spot, nabbing $30 million in the U.S. and Canada for a cumulative domestic gross of $119.6 million as of Sunday morning, according to distributor Paramount Pictures.

Michael Bay’s “Ambulance,” a frenetic thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, continued to sputter in its second week in theaters, adding $4 million to its $15.6 million cumulative domestic haul, according to Universal Pictures. (Universal Pictures and NBC News are units of NBCUniversal.)

The only other major new release playing in theaters this weekend was the Mark Wahlberg religious drama “Father Stu,” which premiered Wednesday. The film, a true-life tale of a boxer-turned-priest, picked up $8 million over the five days, according to Sony.

U.S. movie theaters that struggled during the first two years of the pandemic have gotten a boost this year with hits such as “The Batman” (Warner Bros.), the adventure tale “Uncharted” (Sony) and the reboot of “Scream” (Paramount).

The major theater chains are bracing for even larger crowds next month with the releases of two big-budget spectacles: Marvel Studios’ “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” (May 6) and Paramount’s “Top Gun: Maverick” (May 27).