Dumbledore may have said “gay rights!” but a series of external factors contributed to the underwhelming performance of Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore at the box office during its opening weekend.
The third installment in the Fantastic Beasts series of films opened to $43 million at the domestic box office, making it the lowest-grossing opening weekend for the entire Harry Potter franchise. It should be noted that The Secrets of Dumbledore was still the number 1 movie in the country this past weekend, beating out Sonic the Hedgehog 2, The Lost City, and Everything Everywhere All at Once. Alas, the overall box office results for the film were still lower than expected.
For context, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them opened to $74 million and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald opened to $62 million in the U.S. The threequel’s opening-weekend box office dropped 42 percent in comparison to the first film and 30 percent in comparison to the second film. The movie – which was about exploring Albus Dumbledore’s (Jude Law) youth, sexuality, and relationship with Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen) – had to, unfortunately, deal with numerous external factors that may have contributed to these box office results.
First and foremost, most films released during the current, ongoing global pandemic have underperformed significantly in comparison to pre-pandemic movies. The Fantastic Beasts prequels have also generally not been doing as well as the original Harry Potter movies at national the box office. The highest-grossing prequel, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, still has a lower domestic box office gross than any of the eight Harry Potter movies.
Over the years, the Fantastic Beasts movies have also been making headlines for all the wrong reasons. The initial casting of Johnny Depp as Grindelwald was extremely controversial due to his ongoing domestic violence case with ex-wife Amber Heard. Warner Bros. eventually dropped Depp and replaced him with Mads Mikkelsen, but Depp was still featured in the first two prequels despite backlash from the fans. Another huge star in the franchise is Ezra Miller, who was recently arrested for disorderly conduct at a bar in Hawaii.
Another over-arching problem that the Fantastic Beasts prequels have been facing is the public backlash against J.K. Rowling due to her transphobic remarks in recent years. This has been upsetting not only to the LGBTQ+ community, but also to a large portion of the population that feels baffled and disappointed by the remarks made by the author of the Harry Potter books. Rowling has been more involved than ever in the Fantastic Beasts movies, being credited as both a writer and a producer for these three prequels. In her downtime, she often takes to social media to share openly transphobic tweets. This has prompted celebrities to openly denounce Rowling, which hasn’t been a good look for the overall Harry Potter brand.
As if all of the aforementioned factors weren’t already incredibly damaging to the Fantastic Beasts films, it was also widely reported that scenes referencing or showing Dumbledore as a gay man were censored in certain markets – more disappointing news to longtime Harry Potter fans who wished to see a more personal side of the character. Then, even in the markets where those scenes weren’t censored, Dumbledore’s “gay moment” in the movie was largely panned by critics and fans who felt like his sexual orientation wasn’t properly explored in the story.
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is now playing in theaters.