Weekend Box Office Forecast: Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore Debuts as Sonic 2 Charges Up for Sophomore Holiday Frame (Updated with Preview Results)

Photo Credits: Warner Bros. ("Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore"); Paramount ("Sonic the Hedgehog 2"); Sony & Columbia ("Father Stu")

Friday Update: Warner Bros. reports Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore earned $6.0 million from Thursday’s domestic previews at approximately 3,350 locations.

That figure clocks in ahead of Morbius ($5.7 million) as the third best preview gross of 2022 thus far, behind Sonic the Hedgehog‘s $6.25 million (an estimated $1.25 million of which came from Wednesday previews). The Batman earned $21.6 million in early March from three nights’ worth of previews (over $17 million from Thursday alone).

Last night’s early performance lined up with expectations entering the weekend and keeps the film on course for a domestic frame near or over $40 million.

For comparison, Secrets of Dumbledore registered 34 percent less than The Crimes of Grindelwald ($9.1 million) in 2018 and 31 percent under Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them ($8.75 million) in 2016.

Among Easter releases, Dumbledore‘s preview gross ranks fourth of all time behind Batman v Superman ($27.7 million), Furious 7 ($15.8 million), and The Fate of the Furious ($10.4 million).

Full pre-weekend analysis and forecasts are below.

Wednesday Report: Easter weekend is poised to extend the domestic box office’s recent momentum with the release of Warner Bros.’ Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore and Sony’s Father Stu, although expectations for both are leaning toward the conservative end of forecasts. Those openers are following the strong start of Paramount’s Sonic the Hedgehog 2 last week.

The Wizarding World / Harry Potter franchise was once a marquee event for audiences far and wide, climbing to achieve some of the biggest and most consistent box office performances of the 2000s. Die-hard fans are going to be a driver of Dumbledore‘s release, but the brand has unfortunately lost a great deal of steam in recent years due to a number of internal and external forces.

While 2016’s first Fantastic Beasts film opened to a respectable $74.4 million domestically and proceeded to generate positive staying power with a final sum over $234 million (and $814 million worldwide), its direct sequel stumbled. The Crimes of Grindelwald slipped to a $62.2 million bow and $159.6 million finish domestically, with $654.9 million globally. It was the first time in 10 films that a Potter-related picture missed the $200 million North American threshold.

On the back of mixed fan reception, and even more lukewarm casual audience word of mouth, Grindelwald became a pivotal step backward that ultimately led to a script re-write of this third film and multiple delays (some, but not all, directly due to the pandemic).

Tracking for Dumbledore has reflected the decline in enthusiasm with the lowest sentiment and interest markers of the entire franchise so far. With critics’ reviews at 58 percent as of Wednesday, the film is only ahead of Grindelwald‘s 36 percent score among pundits when looking at the franchise as a whole. The 2018 sequel scored a disappointing 54 percent with audiences, down from 79 percent (74 percent from critics) on the 2016 entry.

Some online circles are complementing this third film, though, with mentions that it harkens back to some of the fan-friendly storytelling that’s benefited the franchise in the past. That could help with repeat viewings in the weeks ahead as not much direct competition arrives until Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness during this film’s fourth domestic frame.

Still, early overseas returns for Dumbledore are notably down in its early release across certain territories.

In the brand’s home base, the United Kingdom opened to $7.7 million last weekend, a sharp 51 percent decline from Grindelwald‘s $15.8 million. That’s a telling sign for a franchise that typically generates close to three-quarters of its worldwide box office outside North America.

Domestically, we should expect the negative trends to hold up. Dumbledore‘s pre-sales window began softly, picked up pace a few weeks ago, and then flattened in recent days as the extension of interest outside fans doesn’t seem to be igniting in a significant way.

Despite the negative signals here, the Potter fan base remains incredibly tight-knit and could fuel decent walk-up business over the holiday frame if word of mouth ends up considerably more positive than the previous film.

Although the market is somewhat competitive right now, the primary audience will be women over the age of 25. The franchise has increasingly become adult-driven, with 86 percent of Grindelwald‘s opening weekend base represented by those 18 and older.

Previews begin on Thursday afternoon, which are expected to be rolled into Good Friday grosses. The prequel/sequel will screen in IMAX and other PLF formats this weekend. The Secrets of Dumbledore is exclusive to movie theaters and is not expected to be available via HBO Max at home until late May at the earliest.

Despite conservative models, Dumbledore still looks likely (though not locked) to crack the top five Easter openings of all time. Ready Player One currently holds the fifth spot with $41.8 million, followed by Clash of the Titans (2010) in fourth with $61.2 million.

Among 2022 releases, Dumbledore is chasing Uncharted ($44.01 million) for the third highest debut of the year thus far behind Sonic 2 and The Batman.

Meanwhile, Sonic 2 looks to benefit in a big way as the premier family title with schools out on Good Friday. The hugely successful sequel and new recordholder among video game adaptation openingswill shed off some front-loading from last weekend’s older fans that drove Thursday and Friday sales, but the well-received sequel will remain a strong presence in the spring market.

Also on the holdover front, A24’s Everything Everywhere All at Once will continue its staggered rollout during the holiday frame. After expanding into 1,250 locations and drawing $6.06 million in the process, Showtimes Dashboard projections indicate the film will be in over 2,000 venues starting this Friday. That figure and the forecast below could yet be adjusted if the studio confirms a significantly different location count.

Father Stu went into early release on Wednesday as Sony gets a head start on the faith-based holiday frame. This is the type of original dramatic content that remains challenging to forecast under market conditions and evolving audience content demand, but late signals indicate the film could outperform the studio’s $7 million five-day opening expectation.

The drama pulled $550K from Tuesday previews, not far behind Ambulance‘s $700K last Thursday or Overcomer‘s $775K Thursday evening start a few years ago. While the film could benefit from male audience and faith-based moviegoer interest, an R rating likely dampens some potential with the latter. Critics are soft on the film, but early audience scores are more encouraging.

Overall, Good Friday typically lends to a higher share of business playing out early in the weekend, while Easter itself will have varying effects on certain films.

Weekend Forecast Ranges

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore
Opening Weekend Range: $39 — 49 million

Father Stu
5-Day Opening Weekend Range: $7 — 10.5 million

Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Second Weekend Range: $33 — 39 million

Weekend Forecast & Location Counts

Boxoffice projects between a 6 percent decrease and a 4 percent increase for this weekend’s top ten films from last weekend’s $117.2 million top ten aggregate. 

Film Distributor 3-Day Weekend Forecast Projected Domestic Total through Sunday, April 17 Location Count Projection (as of Wednesday) % Change from Last Wknd
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore Warner Bros. Pictures $44,100,000 $44,100,000 ~4,100 NEW
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 Paramount Pictures $36,000,000 $129,700,000 ~4,234 -50%
Everything Everywhere All at Once A24 $6,400,000 $17,700,000 ~2,000 6%
Father Stu Sony Pictures / Columbia $6,200,000 $8,400,000 2,705 (Wed) NEW
The Lost City Paramount Pictures $5,800,000 $78,100,000 ~3,400 -36%
Morbius Sony Pictures / Columbia $5,000,000 $66,000,000 ~3,100 -51%
Ambulance Universal Pictures $4,500,000 $16,400,000 ~3,400 -48%
The Batman Warner Bros. Pictures $4,100,000 $365,700,000 ~2,500 -36%
Uncharted Sony Pictures / Columbia $1,400,000 $145,400,000 ~1,300 -47%

*All forecasts are subject to revision before the first confirmation of Thursday previews or Friday estimates from studios or official sources.

Theater counts are updated as confirmed by studiosThe above table does not necessarily represent the top ten as some studios do not finalize weekend location counts and/or an intent to report box office returns prior to publishing.

Photo Credits: Warner Bros. ("Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore"); Paramount ("Sonic the Hedgehog 2"); Sony & Columbia ("Father Stu")