Why can’t big-budget fantasy movie ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore’ make a big splash in the Chinese film market?
Published: Apr 10, 2022 07:33 PM
Promotional material of <em>Fantastic Beasts</em>: <em>The Secrets of Dumbledore</em> Photo: Snapshot of Sina Weibo

Promotional material of Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore Photo: Snapshot of Sina Weibo

"Fantastic Beasts, but where are the fantastic beasts?" This might be the biggest complaint among Chinese audiences after watching Warner Bros' film Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore.

Although the Chinese mythological beast qilin,  a kind of Chinese mythical animal, appears in the $175-$200 million budget film to try to appeal to moviegoers, the movie unfortunately failed to produce any magic at the Chinese mainland box office or on review platforms. 

According to Chinese ticketing platform Maoyan, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore only grossed 18.89 million yuan ($2.97 million) with an attendance rate of only 5.1 percent on Friday, its opening day in the Chinese mainland.

That is down compared to the previous two films Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, which respectively grossed 74.84 million yuan in 2016 and 80.41 million yuan in 2018 on their opening days.

The box-office failure cannot be entirely blamed on the current COVID-19 flare-up, which has caused 57 percent of theaters to shut down. Maoyan shows that 5,173 cinemas are currently open, while the number of operating screens has dropped to the level of 2015, when Fast and Furious 7 smashed the Chinese mainland box office with 2.4 billion yuan.

The reviews for the Harry Potter spinoff series have also been on the decline dropping from 7.6 and 7.0 for the first two to the third installment's 6.3, according to Chinese media review website Douban.

According to the plans announced by Warner Bros, the Wizarding World spinoff is set to consist of five films in total. While the birth and development of this series is inseparable from the continuous popularity of the Harry Potter books and films, each of the new films hasgradually become further intertwined with the universe's lore, leading to stories that can only be understood by diehard fans of Harry Potter.

In reviews, many moviegoers  said that the story of Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is too closely related to the original Harry Potter films, making it difficult for viewers who have not seen these previous works to figure out the storyline in the film. 

A sequel can be a double-edged sword. The popularity of previous films can help ensure a built-in audience and there for potentially increase profits. But if these sequels are not managed well, it can damage the reputation of the entire franchise as a whole. 

It might be a smart idea for sequels to be relatively independent from what came before so that audiences can enjoy the film without having watched previous works just like the Transformers and Mission: Impossible films. 

The second big holiday period for 2022 in China has just wrapped up, but there have not yet been any hit imported Hollywood blockbusters in the market. The past model that relies too much on IP to develop sequels has experienced various adverse market reactions under the influence of the pandemic. 

Take the recent imported film The Batman as an example. Although it was adapted from a well-known IP, it saw weak performance at the box office in the mainland. 

Therefore, how to continuously launch commercial films that can be well-received on a global scale has become the current major problem for major Hollywood film companies.