‘Fantastic Beasts’: Fourth and Fifth Movies in Limbo

“Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore,” the $200 million-budgeted sequel in the “Harry Potter” spinoff series, is set in JK Rowling’s Wizarding World. With just $405 million at the worldwide box office, it is the first film in the blockbuster franchise – out of 11 – to break even. in its theatrical performances.

The fact that “Fantastic Beasts” is slowing down after three movies is very painful, not only for Rowling, who imagined the prequel story as a five-part franchise, but also for those who support Warner Bros., which bet big on the assumption that everything Hogwarts would remain related to the box office – even Harry, Ron and Hermione are involved in the events that happen on screen.

But it wasn’t like that. Although the second part, 2018’s “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,” did not make $650 million at the global box office, its poor performance put the future of Newt Scamander – the protagonist played by Eddie Redmayne – and the company in question. Ticket sales are down 20 percent from 2016’s “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” which grossed more than $800 million worldwide.

There was no screenplay for the fourth or fifth entry in April 2022, when the third “Fantastic Beasts” movie opened in theaters. The executives of Warner Bros. were waiting to see the reception related to “The Secret of Dumbledore” before pumping resources into the final chapters in the magical saga. Unlike the first-eight film “Potter” franchise, which was developed from the rich, at the door of the novels, Rowling is only a weak source material for “Fantastic Beasts.” So, although the story of the secret has been arguing towards the full-fledged Wizarding war fought between the beloved professor of Hogwarts Albus Dumbledore and the Voldemort-esque Gellert Grindelwald (you don’t have to be a fan of “Harry Potter” to know how the war ends), Rowling and Steve Kloves – co-wrote “Secrets of Dumbledore” – they don’t have a very clear plan to reach the main conclusion.

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The following month, Warner Bros. he doesn’t seem to appreciate another chapter in the “Fantastic Beasts” universe. With “Dune” and “Wonder Woman 1984,” two recent Warner Bros. franchises, the studio waited a few days after the films were released to announce plans for sequels. So, curious silence on another chapter of “Fantastic Beasts” is not very encouraging. It is important to note, however, that “The Secret of Dumbledore” was opened at the same time that the group of Warner Bros. The Motion Pictures group was enduring a change in management, which saw the departure of CEO Toby Emmerich and the rise of former MGM film director Michael De. Luca and Pamela Abdy.

Warner Bros., along with representatives for Rowling, declined to comment.

Unless the “Fantastic Beasts” filmmaking team manages to get the cameras rolling in the next six months — and that seems unlikely since there’s no screenplay yet — the fourth movie won’t be released until 2025 at the earliest. There was a long gap between the second and third movies, they came out four years apart, but the “Harry Potter” fandom is not getting any younger. That’s a problem, especially since spinoff stories don’t appeal to new gigs, as evidenced by lower and lower ticket sales for subsequent installments.

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There’s also little incentive to put time, energy and money into an already struggling series because, well, Rowling is getting more and more controversial for her repeated comments about transgender women. The studio has been clear that it doesn’t want to walk away from the multi-billion dollar relationship, but the increased sensitivity surrounding the controversial writer means that Warners will be more selective about the projects it wants to promote.

And it’s not like the movie theater situation has been forgiving during the COVID era. Even so-called big-budget blockbusters have failed to generate the kind of money they were expected to make in pre-pandemic times, as China and Russia, the two biggest film markets, have been almost completely closed to Hollywood films. That makes any $200 million-fixed tent a riskier proposition than before.

The head of Warner Bros. Discovery’s David Zaslav revealed on a recent earnings call about the possibility of doing “something” with Rowling on a story in the Wizarding World franchise “going forward.” However, he refrained from speaking directly. The obvious choice will be turning to the program “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” which takes place directly after the epilogue in “Deathly Hallows” and focuses on Harry, Ron, Hermione and their children. Adding to the potential fervor: it is not out of the realm of possibility to ask the first casters to repeat their roles. Warner Bros. is the investor in the Tony-winning play, but Rowling owns the rights to “Cursed Child,” so the big-screen version needs the author’s permission.

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Considering the lack of reception of the three existing films, it may not be surprising that Warner Bros. has not said clearly whether the fourth and fifth films “Fantastic Beasts” will be completed as planned. But the limbo is still unexpected considering that “Harry Potter” is positioned as one of the two franchises (DC Comics is the other) to support the Warner Bros. box office.

Presumably, that means the company has no choice but to give outside attention to DC Studios, which has recently been led by filmmaker James Gunn and producer Peter Safran. But the DC film that came out didn’t match the consistency or popularity of Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe. Of course, the idea is that Gunn and Safran will right the ship. Realistically, though, it can take years to build a successful slate of superhero stories.

Meanwhile, it may take a little bit of magic — and a lot of Liquid Luck — to find a fun way to revive the Potterverse on the big screen.


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