The latest Harry Potter prequel is struggling to cast a spell on audiences.
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore debuted with an underwhelming $43 million at the domestic box office, the lowest opening for a movie set in the Wizarding World.
The previous low point was the film's predecessor, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, which opened with $62 million in 2018. The Crimes of Grindelwald also earned the weakest reviews of any Harry Potter movie, raising the question of whether the franchise could course correct.
Since then, Fantastic Beasts has faced a seemingly endless series of controversies. Johnny Depp was asked to step down over allegations of domestic abuse, and series star Ezra Miller was arrested for disorderly conduct shortly before The Secrets of Dumbledore's premiere. J.K. Rowling, who writes the Fantastic Beasts movies, has also become a controversial figure due to her tweets about transgender people that have been denounced by the franchise's cast, including Eddie Redmayne.
Critics generally saw The Secrets of Dumbledore as a moderate improvement. But it still received mixed-to-negative reviews overall, and moviegoers gave it the same B+ rating as The Crimes of Grindelwald, according to CinemaScore. The original Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them earned far stronger reviews, nabbing an A CinemaScore and opening with $74 million in 2016.
Fantastic Beasts was originally meant to be a five-film franchise, leaving two more sequels to go. But Warner Bros. has been waiting to see how The Secrets of Dumbledore was received before giving a green light to the final films, according to Variety.
The question now becomes whether the studio will stick with the plan and finish the series or, given the middling reception of these past two installments, pull the plug entirely. Either way, it's safe to say the state of the Wizarding World is far from fantastic.