Only 25 months after the premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, the final and most successful entry in the Harry Potter franchise, Warner Bros. announced that it's headed back to Hogwarts. Potter scribe J.K. Rowling and the studio agreed on a development deal that will mark the author's screenwriting debut in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The new franchise will be an extension of the Potter universe without being a direct sequel or prequel to the Potter storyline. The protagonist of the new series will be Newt Scamander, the fictitious author who wrote the textbook the film draws its title from, a textbook used by Potter during his Hogwarts days.
The cast and characters that populated Potter's wizard world might not be present, but all other aspects of the globally proven formula will remain. "The laws and customs of the hidden magical society will be familiar to anyone who has read the Harry Potter books or seen the films," wrote Rowling on a statement published on her official Facebook page, "but Newt's story will start in New York, seventy years before Harry's gets underway."
The Harry Potter universe has earned $7.69 billion worldwide across eight films released theatrically from 2001 to 2011. It was difficult to think that Warner Bros. would walk away from such a profitable universe at the conclusion of the Potter storyline. Warner Bros. recently announced Batman's return in the upcoming Superman vs. Batman project currently in development, starring Ben Affleck as the new iteration of the Dark Knight. Director Christopher Nolan was responsible for reigniting Warner's Batman cash cow with a trilogy of films that resonated with critics and audiences alike. Warner Bros. wasted little time to revive the character, announcing Batman's return to the silver screen just a year after Nolan's final entry hit theaters.
The Superman vs. Batman concept seemed to be on the fast track in 2002 after Warner Bros. hired Wolfgang Petersen to direct the project, aiming for a summer 2004 release. At the time, both properties had languished in development hell, spending years on the shelf without any extraordinary interest past their respectively loyal fan(boy) bases. The project never materialized and Warner Bros. instead focused on revaluing their properties with stand-alone franchises. Batman eventually went to Nolan, who churned out a Dark Knight trilogy that grossed $2.45 billion worldwide. Superman had a misfire with Bryan Singer's Superman Returns, which grossed $391 million worldwide. Superman Returns had outgrossed the $374 million worldwide earned by the previous year's Batman Begins, but the direction of the franchise failed to garner much excitement. The formula was tweaked seven years later with the release of Zack Snyder's reboot, Man of Steel, which has grossed $661 million worldwide since its release in June. Warner Bros. is coming back to the Superman vs. Batman concept with the two superheroes in their box office prime.
Today's Hollywood is one of brand-name franchises, where familiar titles form part of an extensive and inter-locking diegetic universe. Disney and Marvel's partnership has maximized this strategy across the Avengers films and the corresponding stand-alone series that populate it. Disney looks to be ready to repeat the same formula with their acquisition of the Star Wars universe, with speculation of annual spin-off films to complement a new trilogy.
Unproven properties molded into wannabe blockbusters have their days numbered in Hollywood after two consecutive years of costly box office flops. The Lone Ranger, Battleship, R.I.P.D., Jack Reacher, and John Carter are only a handful of examples that show the difficulty of launching new crowd-pleasing properties. The fact that the films weren't any good might have something to do with it as well, but making a half-decent movie appears to be significantly less enticing than releasing a film that's easier to market.
One can hardly blame Warner Bros. for going back to J.K. Rowling in an attempt to dig up another multi-billion dollar franchise from the author. The deal isn't confined to whatever makes it onto the silver screen, maximizing the licensing power that comes with J.K. Rowling. The New York Times reports that the WB/Rowling deal includes additional attractions at the Harry Potter sections of the Universal Studios theme parks and global distribution rights to a televised miniseries from the BBC based on "The Casual Vacancy," her 2012 novel aimed at adults.
There is a lot of potential in this deal, but Warner Bros. has to be wary in how they develop their Potter universe spin-offs. Author Stephanie Meyer became a household name with the Twilight franchise, a series that grossed a total of $3.32 billion worldwide from five feature film adaptations. Meyer's following film project, The Host, bombed earlier this year after grossing $63.2 million globally. Granted, The Host didn't belong in the Twilight universe, but the discrepancy in global grosses between the two franchises clearly indicates that the audience's allegiance was with Meyer's characters rather than her oeuvre. Warner Bros. will be hoping the same doesn't apply with their fledgling Fantastic Beasts franchise. J.K. Rowling and the studios are ready to make Newt Scamander a household name in the coming years.
A look at some of the franchises mentioned in this article:
By Phil Contrino and Alex Edghill
Starting with today's article, BoxOffice will release our Facebook/Twitter Report Card, a new weekly feature that will analyze how powerful upcoming wide releases are on those two influential sites. We have been tracking activity on both sites since May 2010, so we know better than anyone else whether or not a film is connecting the way it should be. The combined power of Facebook and Twitter has changed the movie industry in a substantial way, and our Facebook/Twitter Report Card is a way to easily understand that impact on a movie-by-movie basis.
We hope you like this new feature! I welcome your feedback directly: email@example.com.
FACEBOOK/TWITTER REPORT CARD (9/12/13 Edition)
Insidious Chapter 2
Facebook Grade: A
Never underestimate the power of a creepy trailer when it comes to building buzz on Facebook. The Insidious brand was helped substantially by the sequel's first trailer--a strong bit of advertising that didn't give away too much. Since March, the official Insidious page has added more than 300,000 likes, and now its total is rapidly headed for 3 million. The property has grown substantially since Insidious opened on April 1, 2011 with around 30,000 likes. Director James Wan (The Conjuring) knows how to give horror fans what they want.
Twitter Grade: A+
Insidious Chapter 2 is a juggernaut on Twitter. The horror sequel is outpacing the likes of Paranormal Activity 4, The Purge and The Conjuring in terms of tweet volume, making it the strongest horror film since we started tracking Twitter in May 2010. That kind of healthy activity indicates that Chapter 2 is connecting well outside the base of horror enthusiasts. We expect this level of activity from action tentpoles, not low-budget fright flicks.
Facebook Grade: B-
The Family is not the kind of film that is designed to do well on Facebook, because it appeals to a segment of the moviegoing population--patrons aged 35+--that aren't as active as teens and twentysomethings. It's basic title also provides a minor search hurdle for interested parties seeking it out on Facebook. Still, we're encouraged that The Family's like count is rapidly headed for 180K. That's a healthy improvement over the 85K likes that The Big Wedding--another Robert De Niro-driven flick--managed by opening day this past April.
Twitter Grade: C-
The mob drama has failed to post noticeable Tweet count increases in the crucial days leading up to release. That's a red flag even for a film that we never expected to do well on Twitter. The Twitter numbers are eerily similar to Everybody's Fine, an ensemble drama led by De Niro that opened to a mediocre $3.9 million in 2009.
About Time opened in first place across 556 screens, earning $2.7 million including previews. It posted a comparable debut to films like 50 First Dates ($14.2M Cume), One Day ($13M), and The Time Traveler's Wife ($12.7M Cume). Universal is reporting that the time-traveling romantic comedy scored particularly well in exit polls among females over 25.
The date movie beat out the young male demographic, overshadowing the opening weekend of Riddick, which came in second place with a $2.2 million bow from 400 screens. The third entry in the Pitch Black franchise posted a larger debut than the $1.8 million of the sequel and $1.2 million of the original. Riddick is poised to become the franchise's top earner in the U.K., expected to gross above the $5.8 million of The Chronicles of Riddick and $3.9 million of Pitch Black.
One Direction: This is Us played in a market-leading 831 screens, only to finish its second weekend in third place with a $1.7 million take. It was a 49% drop for the front-loaded film which has now grossed a total of $9 million. We're the Millers took in $1.4 million in its third weekend, taking its cume to $9 million. Elysium dropped 36% in its third frame, grossing $1.2 million over the weekend and finishing with an $11.5 million total. Despicable Me 2 celebrated its eleventh consecutive week on the top ten chart, finishing the weekend in eight place with $494k. The Minions are a major hit in the U.K., where their latest outing has already grossed a blockbuster $69.1 million.
Top 10 Films in the United Kingdom & Ireland. September 6-8, 2013.
Miyazaki's The Wind Rises screened for a select North American audience this week at the Toronto International Film Festival, but the animated hit has already grossed $99.4 million in Japan. A strong $4.5 million weekend was a 33% improvement from last weekend's take, bringing the famed director's swan song days away from crossing the $100 million mark.
Man of Steel suffered a steep 55% drop in its second weekend despite being one of the weekend's most widely distributed titles across 611 screens. A $1.2 million weekend put the film in third place and gives it a $6.8 million total. The film's steep drop suggests it could hope to gross as much as $10 million from the its last major market. Star Trek Into Darkness has had a similar performance, currently sitting in eight place on the top ten chart after a $653k performance in its third frame. Star Trek Into Darkness played in a market-leading 670 screens and has grossed a total of $9 million from its Japanese run.
Top 10 Films in Japan. September 6-8, 2013
A $2 million opening weekend put One Direction: This is Us atop the Italian box office. The film dominated the per-screen average category with a robust $6,472, more than twice than any other film on the market.
Elysium dropped 39% in its first hold to post a $1.2 million weekend, taking its cume to $4.1 million. Monsters University is quickly approaching the $10 million mark, and will likely reach that figure in the coming days. The animated prequel has grossed a total of $9.7 million after three weeks in Italy.
Riddick had a rough landing in Italy, opening in 295 locations for $799k. It was only a marginal improvement above the debut of Movie 43, which premiered in 291 screens for a $736k bow.
Top 10 Films in Italy. September 6-8, 2013