fb-feature

This Week’s Movie News – Harry Potter Goes Into Beastmode

***

Box Office Brasserie: Movie News For Movie Lovers

There may be a flood of films filtering into theaters this weekend, but there’s only one that appeals to a flurry of fanatical filmgoers: “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.”

The Harry Potter franchise is one of Hollywood’s crown jewels in terms of worldwide box office, one that offers up the gift that keeps on giving: merchandising. I mean, how many film franchises have their own theme park? A theme park that has the power to sell plastic wands at $40 a pop…

It’s no wonder Warner Bros. courted Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling to shepherd the spin-off, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” which is based on a textbook from the original franchise.

Rowling penned her first script with “Fantastic Beasts,” and she and the studio have big plans, as they’ve already announced that there will be five flicks in this franchise, unless, of course, they decide to split the last screenplay into two films.

Her seven books—and eight films—have amassed $7.7 billion at the global box office and given Warner Bros. the keys to the magical kingdom of merch. It’s arguably the only film franchise that can complete on the front lines with the likes of Disney’s heavy hitters: Marvel, Pixar, and Star Wars.

Splintering the Harry Potter franchise was a wise decision by the powers that be, but aligning themselves with Rowling is the masterstroke here, as too many franchises have flamed out by not adhering to their masters.

“Fantastic Beasts” will attempt to explore the mythology of Harry Potter’s world without disrupting what came before, or after, as the case may be, since this is a prequel set across the pond in 1920s New York City.

The big question is, will an adult-centric cast create the same appeal to all the kids and teens that made Harry Potter such a sensation?  That’s really the biggest factor when considering the success for “Fantastic Beasts.” Is this a family film, or just a more grown up version featuring wands and wizards?

Warners is hoping for some serious might and magic with “Fantastic Beasts,” and they need it, considering the PG-13 film carries a budget of $180M, with probably $150M more in marketing. That means anything less than $1billion worldwide would probably raise eyebrows.

Still, if “Fantastic Beasts” does $750M, that would be acceptable, considering the box office is only the beginning here in terms of investment potential.

“Fantastic Beasts” rolls out in 4,000+ theaters in North America and 63 countries worldwide, and should hit close to $100M domestic and $200M+ worldwide this weekend.

No one can accuse director David Yates of not being committed to a long term relationship, as he’s steered the Harry Potter franchise since “Order of the Phoenix” and recently signed on to helm all five installments of “Fantastic Beasts.” Forget “The Legend of Tarzan” sequel, he’ll be too busy with broomsticks and butterbeers through the end of the decade.  Beastie boy for life.

When you’re a studio attempting to roll out your film up against a $100M juggernaut, results usually aren’t tipped in your favor.  Which is why “Edge of Seventeen,” “Bleed For This,” and the wide expansion of “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” aren’t expected to make much of an impact on audiences.

Ang Lee’s “Long Halftime Walk” debuted exclusively last weekend in two theaters with  $114,129 ($57,065 per), which is good, but not as potent as other 2016 films–Woody Allen’s “Cafe Society,” “Moonlight,” or “Don’t Think Twice.”

Expanding into 1,000+ theaters with moderate to downright rotten reviews won’t help its cause as Sony’s $40M investment, which once seemed locktight, now seems a bit sketchy, especially if it doesn’t gross more than $5M this weekend.

STX’s R-rated teen drama, “Edge of Seventeen,” cost just $9M to produce and should deliver an opening close to that, as many have compared it favorably to John Hughes films. Still, counter-programming isn’t easy, as the media is strong-armed into talking about Harry Potter ad infinitum, so word-of-mouth will have to save the day for genre fare.

Remember when Miles Teller was poised to be the next John Cusack? Maybe even the next Tom Cruise. He has charm, a winning smile, and that intangible “it” factor that allows him to play up comedy and drama with ease.

Teller had a huge role in “Divergent,” a memorable stroll through adolescence in “The Spectacular Now,” and a true breakout performance in “Whiplash.” Then, the summer before last ,“Fantastic Four” bombed and the “Divergent” franchise famously flamed out.

He returned with “War Dogs” this past summer, but the heat definitely subsided. Here he takes a swing with “Bleed For This,” in what has become a Hollywood staple, the boxing flick.

It’s almost a rite of passage—Robert De Niro in “Raging Bull,” Sylvester Stallone in “Rocky,” Will Smith in “Ali,” Russell Crowe in “Cinderella Man,” Denzel Washington in “The Hurricane,” and more recently Mark Wahlberg in “The Fighter,” Michael B. Jordan in “Creed,” and Jake Gyllenhaal in “Southpaw.”

In the bio pic, Teller plays former boxing champ Vinny Pazienza, as directed by Ben Younger (“Boiler Room”).  Although “Bleed For This” debuts in just 1,500+ theaters, and may hit the mat with $5M, Open Road’s costs are mitigated, as the budget was just $6M.  That’s how you get KO’d and still win the fight—keep your overhead low and hit your demographic square in the face.

In limited release, Focus Features’ drops their thriller “Nocturnal Animals” into 35+ theaters. The R-rated thriller has a great cast including Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Laura Linney, Isla Fisher, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson.

In exclusive release, director Kenneth Lonergan, who hasn’t had a film in theaters since 2011’s ill-fated “Margaret,” and has only directed three films in his career, including 2000’s “You Can Count on Me,” now brings the critically acclaimed “Manchester by the Sea” to four theaters in New York and Los Angeles.

Already on many critics’ short list for Best Picture, Lonergan’s R-rated drama stars Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams.

***

WEEKEND ESTIMATES

  1. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – $95M
  2. Doctor Strange – $22M
  3. Trolls – $19M
  4. Arrival – $13M
  5. Almost Christmas – $8M

***

CHOICE CUT OF THE WEEK: Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” (March 17, 2017)

The only animated film ever nominated for Best Picture gets the live-action treatment and will likely gross upwards of $1billion just like “The Jungle Book” did last spring. And Disney is just getting started with these fairy tale adaptations, folks.

***

PRIME CUT OF THE WEEK: Paramount’s “Ghost in the Shell” (March 31, 2017)

Scarlett Johansson is firmly in ass-kicking mode here, as the Japanese manga franchise finally gets the Hollywood treatment.  Looks promising and is directed by Rupert Sanders (“Snow White and the Huntsman”).

***

Jeff Bock, NewsWhistle’s movie editor, is the senior box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations in Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at Jeff@NewsWhistle.com.

***

Lead-In Poster Image (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) Courtesy of Warner Bros.; Poster Design by WORKS ADV

fb-embed