LOS ANGELES (REUTERS/VARIETY.COM) - Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald enchanted moviegoers with a debut of US$62 million (S$85 million). While that's slightly lower than the start of Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, the first instalment in the Harry Potter spin-off series, it was easily enough to dominate the weekend box office.
Warner Bros, the studio behind the wizarding series, sees Fantastic Beasts as more of an international play, where the follow-up has already earned US$191 million.
Stateside, The Crimes Of Grindelwald has battled the worst reviews yet for a Harry Potter entry. It currently holds a bleak 40 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes and a B+ CinemaScore.
The Crimes Of Grindelwald is the second entry in what Warner Bros intends to be a five-film franchise and is part of the studio's ongoing effort to wring more riches from the wizarding world popularised by author J. K. Rowling.
It sparked controversy when Johnny Depp was cast as the infamous dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald. However, it didn't seem to taint enthusiasm among Potterheads.
Theatres were able to entice more than just witches and wizards this weekend. New offerings, along with a number of holdovers, were able to draw muggles and crack the top five as comedy Instant Family and heist drama Widows each opened relatively on a par with expectations.
For Paramount, Instant Family, starring Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne, generated US$14.7 million when it launched in 3,286 locations.
The feel-good film that is loosely based on the true story of a married couple who adopt three young children earned a promising A CinemaScore, as well as a 79 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes. The audience was predominately female and over the age of 35.
The studio is banking on a strong Thanksgiving showing to boost momentum and justify its US$48 million price tag.
Fox and New Regency are distributing Widows, directed by Steve McQueen, which brought in a tepid US$12.5 million from 2,805 venues.
The movie cost US$40 million to make and follows a group of women who arrange a caper in order to pay back a crime boss after their criminal husbands are killed on a job gone wrong.
The ensemble cast includes Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, and Cynthia Erivo. Since its debut at the Toronto Film Festival, Widows has garnered rave reviews, especially for Davis' performance.
Second place went to Universal's The Grinch, which pocketed another US$38 million to bring its domestic tally to US$126 million. Bohemian Rhapsody, Fox's Freddie Mercury biopic, also saw a strong outing in its third weekend and nabbed third place with US$15 million. That takes its North American total to US$127 million.
In limited release, Universal got a head start on Green Book as the awards-bait film picked up US$313,000 from 25 venues for a per-screen average of US$12,520.
Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali co-star in the comedic drama, which expands nationwide on Wednesday (Nov 21). It won the people's choice award at the Toronto Film Festival and has since generated an A+ CinemaScore and 83 per cent Rotten Tomatoes average.
Directed by Peter Farrelly and co-produced by Participant and DreamWorks, Green Book follows a bouncer who takes a job chauffeuring a famed black pianist in the segregation era. Mortensen has been the subject of controversy after he used the N-word during a panel discussion promoting the film (he was making a point about how far society had come in the decades since Jim Crow). He has since apologised.
CBS Films' At Eternity's Gate secured the best theatre average of the week with US$23,000 per venue for a weekend haul of US$92,000 from four theatres in New York and Los Angeles. Willem Dafoe has earned raves for his portrayal of Vincent van Gogh in the drama, which will continue its expansion in weeks to come.