Two of the biggest brands in all of Moviedom are tracking for so-so launches.
That perspective is, of course, extremely relative, but still interesting to see in context of their brand histories, particularly when you also consider the growth of higher IMAX and 3D ticket prices in recent years.
Doctor Strange, the latest evolution in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), is currently tracking to debut at anywhere between $55 to $75 million on its November 4th opening weekend (an unusually wide dollar estimate). Two weeks later on the 18th, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, the Harry Potter prequel, is tracking to take in the high end of that haul: $75 million over its first three days.
These are solid numbers by most measures…but by MCU and Potterverse standards, each of these movies will rank among the lowest.
First, let’s look at Marvel. Doctor Strange will become the 14th movie of the MCU. Even if it opens at the highest end of that tracking estimate, it’ll rank 10th out of 14. But if it should come in at the low end, Doctor Strange would tie for the lowest Marvel opening ever (Edward Norton‘s one-and-done take on The Incredible Hulk). It would even be lower than the soft $57 million debut of Ant-Man, which didn’t have near the hype, promotion, or seeming anticipation around it (plus, that one opened in the middle of a crowded summer).
Then there’s Fantastic Beasts. It will be the 9th film in the broader Potterverse franchise. A $75 million opening would make it the lowest debut of the series ever, right under the $77 million and $77.8 million of Harry Potters 5 & 6 (aka Order of the Phoenix and The Half-Blood Prince).
So what does that mean for both of these franchises, particularly since both movies have been as aggressively marketed as each could possibly hope for?
Certainly there are caveats to consider. With Doctor Strange it’s the launch of an entirely new character, and one that never had a devout culture-saturating following to begin with. This is outside the established (and highly lucrative) ongoing Avengers narrative. It shouldn’t be a huge shock, then, that’s it’s tracking closer to Ant-Man than it is the latest Captain America entry.
Fantastic Beasts shares similar challenges. It’s well outside the specific Potter narrative, doesn’t have the huge allegiance that the main Potter books enjoyed, and doesn’t have any crossover characters from the Potter books (or any that we know of yet) that could make the broader historical universe that much more intriguing. It’s a new story, essentially, with strong coattails.
Still…those are very strong coattails.
I’d wager that both Marvel Studios and Warner Bros have to be looking at those opening numbers with some mixed emotions. They’re certainly not disastrous by any stretch, nor should they be cause for hitting the panic button. But given the marketing push behind both and the brand power fueling them, I have to think each studio is looking at those tracking numbers and wondering, “That’s all we’re getting?”
There is one historical example these studios can hang their hopes on: Guardians of the Galaxy. It, too, was a lesser known property that tracked at $65 to $70 million for its opener, only to go on and set a then-record for August with a ginormous $94 million haul.
So who knows, maybe by the time it’s all said and done, Doctor Strange and Fantastic Beasts will conjure the same magic.