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‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald’ Tops, But ‘Widows’ Tells a Sad Story

However, Steve McQueen's 'Widows' tells the sad story of a well-made, well-reviewed film that somehow didn't find a major audience.

“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald”

Jaap Buitendijk

When a film opens to over $60 million like “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,” you could call it the top story and go from there. However, there’s just as much interest in the opening-weekend subplots provided by “Widows,” “Instant Family,” and “Green Book.” These results are not encouraging; in the cases of “Widows” and “Green Book,” the implications are frightening.

At $170 million, this weekend will be down about 15 percent from last year. While “Fantastic Beasts” provided a strong franchise, it turns out “Justice League” was 50 percent more popular. Last year had the surprise initial success of “Wonder,” which opened to $27.5 million.

“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald”

Jaap Buitendijk

“Grindelwald” is the smallest opening for a film from J.K. Rowling’s universe of wizards. It’s disappointing at 19 percent less (adjusted), but Warners will be buttressed by the film’s overseas performance of $191 million this weekend (Japan still to come). But with a lower start and 16 percent second-day drop, it will have a hard time sustaining a long run. “Ralph Breaks the Internet” looms on Wednesday, and next weekend’s “Creed 2” likely even bigger.

Viola Davis in "Widows"


Merrick Morton

The low-end guess for Steve McQueen’s acclaimed heist thriller “Widows” was $15 million, with insiders suspecting as much as $20 million was possible. Instead, it managed only $12.3 million to land in fifth place. That’s a number below older-audience skewing “Book Club,” Tyler Perry’s lesser “Acrimony,” and Clint Eastwood’s “12:17 to Paris.”

However, “Book Club” only cost $10 million; the “Widows” budget was $42 million. It received excellent reviews (Metacritic: 85) and targeted three (somewhat overlapping) audiences that can push a film to success: women, older adults, and African-Americans. In star Viola Davis, it has one of the most acclaimed actresses of our time. And yet it managed only $1.5 million more than “BlackKklansman,” in a little less than double the theaters. How could this happen?

The film is unconventional — for its serious director, for its star, for its crime-related story that centers on women. The B Cinemascore — that’s mediocre, and could reflect a sharply divided audience — suggests that many came for an action-oriented film and didn’t get what they wanted.

Fox reports a 55-45 female split, with 79 percent of the audience 25 and older (that’s higher than normal). However, it comes at a moment when there is much in the marketplace for those adults. The racial split was 49-23 white to black, showing clear resistance from the African-American audience. That’s about $3 million of the take from that group, when many films that have African-American leads and/or directors can open to $20 million or more, with a major portion of that audience among them.

The 18 percent Saturday jump for “Widows” isn’t great for an adult film. And with “Creed 2” and “Green Book” either opening or widening this weekend, it appears unlikely that this will get a second breath. That’s sad: This was a different kind of film, and it fell far short. This will be noticed.

We covered the tepid start for “Green Book” in our specialized report. Better days could be ahead: the initial A+ Cinemascore could translate into word of mouth as it goes to 1,000 theaters this week. But the chances don’t look great.

Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne in Instant Family from Paramount Pictures. from Paramount media site

“Instant Family”

Hopper Stone/SMPSP

In this mix, lackluster results for a Mark Wahlberg comedy aimed at middle America aren’t as newsworthy. Still, $14 million for a film similar to his “Daddy’s Home” home runs is a downturn. Wahlberg, whose career has mastered both action and lighter fare, stumbled earlier this year with the action-oriented “Mile 22.” That opened in August close to the same number, with a similar  budget around $50 million.

"Bohemian Rhapsody"

“Bohemian Rhapsody”

20th Century Fox

Three wide openings seemed to take a toll on holdovers. Best was “The Grinch,” down 43 percent in week two. That’s not bad with “Grindelwald” in play, and gets it to $126 million with the holiday ahead. With a $75 million budget, it will be a nice plus for Universal.

Last week’s two other openers just went from bad to worse. “Overlord” dropped 62 percent, and “The Girl in the Spider’s Web” to 68 percent. Again, it seems like business has reverted to favoring mostly familiar franchises, unless a film becomes a standalone event. That has helped “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which is down 50 percent but up to $128 million, and “A Star Is Born,” off 47 percent but at $187 million.

In the meantime, Disney is faced with its third loser of the year, with “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” reaching near the end of its line with a 54 percent drop and, at best, a $50 million domestic take for a $120 million film. It’s doing more overseas, but hardly thriving.

The Top Ten

1. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (Warner Bros.) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic: 53; Est. budget: $200 million

$62,200,000 in 4,163 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $14,941,000; Cumulative: $62,200,000

2. The Grinch (Universal) Week 2; Last weekend #1

$38,165,000 (-43%) in 4,141 theaters (no change); PTA: $9,216; Cumulative: $126,544,000

3. Bohemian Rhapsody (20th Century Fox) Week 3; Last weekend #2

$15,700,000 (-50%) in 3,810 theaters (-190); PTA: $4,121; Cumulative: $127,886,000

4. Instant Family (Paramount) NEW – Cinemascore: 58; Metacritic: A; Est. budget: $48 million

$14,700,000 in 3,286 theaters; PTA: $4,474; Cumulative: $14,700,000

5. Widows (20th Century Fox) NEW – Cinemascore: 86; Metacritic: B; Est. budget: $42 million

$12,300,000 in 2,803 theaters; PTA: $4,388; Cumulative: $12,300,000

6. The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (Disney) Week 3; Last weekend #4

$4,678,000 (-54%) in 2,635 theaters (-1,131); PTA: $1,775; Cumulative: $43,871,000

7. A Star Is Born (Warner Bros.) Week 7; Last weekend #5

$4,350,000 (-46%) in 2,010 theaters (-838); PTA: $2,164; Cumulative: $185,841,000

8. Overlord (Paramount) Week 2; Last weekend #3

$3,850,000 (-62%) in 2,859 theaters (no change); PTA: $1,347; Cumulative: $17,743,000

9. The Girl in the Spider’s Web (Sony) Week 2; Last weekend #6

$2,500,000 (-68%) in 2,929 theaters (no change); PTA: $854; Cumulative: $13,291,000

10. Nobody’s Fool (Paramount) Week 3; Last weekend #7

$2,260,000 (-66%) in 1,301 theaters (1,167); PTA: $1,737; Cumulative: $28,888,000

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