Do people still care about 'Fantastic Beasts'?

People enter the AMC movie theater at Boston Common.

The Harry Potter prequel film “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” made $43 million on its opening weekend. Variety called this number a “franchise low” as its two predecessors made $74 and $62 million respectively on their openings (1). While it still managed to secure the number one spot at the box office, the numbers are still noticeably lower than many would have thought they would be based on the massive amounts of money made by the “Harry Potter” franchise in the past. Why is this?

First and foremost, there’s the pandemic. Movies and movie theaters simply have not been making the money that they used to since it reared its ugly head. Now, with cases again on the rise and people having gotten used to waiting for movies to drop on streaming, it makes perfect sense for numbers to be a little lower than expected. However, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” still broke box office records even though it was released nearly two years into the pandemic. Other movies, though not many, have crossed the $500 million mark in the past two years. One would think that having the “Harry Potter” name behind it would help propel “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” past this number. This wasn’t the case.

There is also the low critical response of the previous films to take into account. The previous move in the franchise, “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,” has a 36 percent on Rotten Tomatoes (3). This was a significant drop from the previous film’s 74 percent. While many fans may not care about critical responses and desire to form their own opinions, these scores may be indicative of how audiences as a whole felt about these movies. Why sit through two hours of a sequel to a “meh” movie? If the current installment’s 48 percent indicates anything, it’s that this movie may not be better received by people who didn’t enjoy “The Crimes of Grindelwald.”

Finally, there’s the elephant in the room. J.K. Rowling, in recent years, has made her thoughts on sex and gender very clear to all who would listen—and those who wouldn’t. In the past, she has tweeted,  “If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction. If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives. It isn’t hate to speak the truth” (2). Her comments have been seen as hateful toward the trans community and she is a self-identified Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist, or TERF. Her comments are extensive, and there’s not much space for them here, but a quick Google search or scroll through her Twitter account should get the point across. Even the stars of the original “Harry Potter” movies have spoken up against her. While nostalgia may be a powerful selling point, some may not want to support Rowling’s comments by giving a famously wealthy person even more money.

With legislation and legal action against transgender people being featured on the news lately, many people may feel compelled not to support Rowling’s newest project. Specifically, as of March 30, 23 bills targeting LGBTQ Americans were proposed this year, with roughly half of them focusing on transgender people (4). This also isn’t the only controversy from “The Secrets of Dumbledore.” Ezra Miller, who also stars in the movie, was recently arrested for disorderly conduct and harassment. Johnny Depp, who was in previous installments, had domestic abuse allegations made against him. In general, this film has a lot going against it.

Is this just a temporary setback in the “Harry Potter” legacy? Was it concern for health or action against hate speech that convinced people not to leave their homes? Warner Brothers has reportedly not greenlit a sequel yet, and is waiting for the performance of this movie to make the decision. The failure of this movie, for whatever reason it may have happened, may also be the failure of the entire film franchise.

  1. https://variety.com/2022/film/box-office/box-office-fantastic-beasts-3-lowest-opening-weekend-harry-potter-1235234213/
  2. https://www.glamour.com/story/a-complete-breakdown-of-the-jk-rowling-transgender-comments-controversy
  3. https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/fantastic_beasts_and_where_to_find_them 
  4. https://www.nbcnews.com/nbc-out/out-politics-and-policy/nearly-240-anti-lgbtq-bills-filed-2022-far-targeting-trans-people-rcna20418

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