Warner Bros has had a strange year when it comes to box office receipts. On paper, three of their tentpole films have done remarkable business. Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice banked a stellar $873 million worldwide, Suicide Squad brought in a great $746 million, and now Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them just claimed the top spot at the domestic box office during its opening weekend with a strong $75 million- which gives it a $218 global cume.
And this thing is only just getting started!
And yet...why are people within the industry convinced that Warner Bros is sweating about that $75 million opening?
"They can’t be happy about this internally," said an anonymous distribution chief for another major studio. They claim that a figure north of $90 million was likely what Warner Bros had hoped to see for Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them. Deadline says the film's actual budget was in the area of $180-$200 million, with a promotional expenditure of $150 million. This would bring the film's true price tag to about $330-$350 million.
That $75 million weekend that Fantastic Beasts just had put it smack dab in the middle of its conservative $70-$80 million estimates, is $9 million short of what Doctor Strange did two weeks ago, and far less than the opening of any Harry Potter film before it (especially when inflation is factored in). Couple that with reviews that trended downward from Excellent to Pretty Good, and some think Fantastic Beasts may end up another so-so start for a franchise that Warner Bros has been banking on- with four more installments already planned.
This calls to mind those DC films that were mentioned earlier because, again, on paper the performance looks good, and yet when you dig deeper there's reason for the WB to be not-so-thrilled. Deadline points out that the practices over at Warner Bros can sometimes lead to surprising losses. Take Harry Potter And The Order of The Phoenix, for example. That film made $939 worldwide, and yet it's reported that the film actually lost $167 million after ancillary expenses were accounted for. This, despite the film's total cost being in the ballpark of $460 million. You'd think that $939m would cover that. It didn't.
Because of things like that, Deadline's sources aren't really sure how big the profits for Batman V Superman and Suicide Squad actually turned for the studio are.
As another distribution chief put it, "It's solid," is about the best way to characterize what Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them did this weekend. It's nothing monumental, and it's probably less than Warner Bros had hoped for. But it's solid, and it'll be enough for the studio to push forward. Though, you can almost guarantee that the sequel is going to be more attached-at-the-hip to the Harry Potter franchise- with rumors abound that we'll see a young Dumbledore- since one of the things people say hurt Fantastic Beasts was the lack of a clear link between the two series.
Don't feel too badly for Warner Bros, though, as they've definitely had a strong year. They're #2 only to Disney, which is quite respectable. But with their business practices, and how much time and money they've invested in both the DCEU and J.K. Rowling's magical wizarding world, the figures that make them #2 aren't as impressive once those dollars return to the studio's coffers.