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Box office preview: Fantastic Beasts poised for magical opening weekend

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Jaap Buitendijk; Mary Cybulski/Courtesy Everett Collection; Murray Close; Seacia Pavao

Five years after the conclusion of the Harry Potter film series, eager fans will finally get their hands on the Eddie Redmayne-fronted spin-off, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, when it hits theaters this Friday.

The Yates-directed fantasy film will easily top the U.S. box office come Sunday, facing little in the way of competition, as holdovers Trolls and Doctor Strange enter their third weekend in wide release, while the week’s strongest newcomer, The Edge of Seventeen, is tracking to earn just a fraction of what the Warner Bros. blockbuster will amass over the next three days.

Check EW’s Nov. 18–20 weekend box office projections below.

1. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – $80 million

Instead of looking to the original, wildly successful Harry Potter films as a barometer for which to gauge Fantastic Beasts‘ potential success, it’s perhaps wiser to take a gander at the box office numbers of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy. Like the trio of Hobbit movies — the first of which grossed $84.6 million upon its 2012 debut, nine years after The Return of the King launched in 2003 — Fantastic Beasts takes place in the same cinematic universe as the film series upon which it’s based, though it’s not a part of its source material’s core storyline. Instead, the film follows the adventures of Newt Scamander (Redmayne), who wrote the fictional book that bears the film’s namesake and is required reading for all first-year Hogwarts students.

The $180 million film, opening in over 4,000 theaters this Friday (with Thursday evening previews), features an ensemble cast of renowned actors, including Redmayne, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, Katherine Waterston, Carmen Ejogo, Ron Perlman, Ezra Miller, and Johnny Depp, and is directed by David Yates, the same filmmaker responsible for four previous Potter movies. It’s tracking well, receiving decent reviews from critics, piggybacking off of one of the most successful franchises in history, and its screenplay hails from the pen of Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling herself, adding to its credibility as a worthy successor to the Potter throne. Though projections indicate an opening in the $70-$75 million range, it’ll be no surprise if the film climbs even higher by Sunday’s end.

2. Trolls – $21 million

After holding strong over its sophomore weekend (it fell a mere 25 percent from its $46.6 million opening), Fox’s animated Trolls will take a bigger tumble during week No. 3, but could still top last week’s champion Doctor Strange if that film follows the pattern of descent laid out by its Marvel forerunners. Look for Trolls to finish in the $20-$25 million range this weekend.

3. Doctor Strange – $20 million

The Sorcerer Supreme conjured box office magic during his first two weekends in theaters, helping Disney lift its annual domestic (and worldwide) haul to record levels. His reign will come to a close this weekend, as both Trolls and newcomer Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them are poised to out-gross the Marvel flick, which should amass around $20 million for a third weekend dip in the 50-60 percent range — consistent with Doctor Strange‘s studio brethren Captain America: Civil War (54.7 percent) and Thor: The Dark World (61.2 percent) across the same frame.

4. Arrival – $13 million

Sure, Arrival‘s $24 million opening hit a high note among Paramount’s recent string of underperformers (Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, Ben-Hur, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows), but the $47 million awards-bound sci-fi drama suffered from a major identity crisis across the studio’s marketing campaign. The movie sold to audiences was a tense thriller; what they got, however, was a beautiful, subtle meditation on life, and polled moviegoers weren’t happy with the jarring contrast, giving the film a middling B grade on CinemaScore — a stark left turn from the rave reviews the film has received since September, when it premiered at the Venice Film Festival before traveling the circuit from Telluride to Toronto.

Though star Amy Adams is bound to pick up a few major nominations for her performance in the Denis Villeneuve-directed film this awards season, the movie might face a major setback during its second go-round at the weekend box office, as the studio’s advertising could come back to bite it in the end. Still, Arrival is pulling in decent numbers throughout the week (it grossed $1.9 million on Monday, $2.4 million on Tuesday, and $1.7 million on Wednesday), which is a healthy sign heading into the weekend.

5. The Edge of Seventeen – $10 million

Across most of her mainstream releases, Hailee Steinfeld has been relegated to supporting roles; she earned an Oscar nomination for her work alongside Jeff Bridges on the Coen brothers’ True Grit, and backed up the ladies of Pitch Perfect 2 in 2015; The Edge of Seventeen affords the young actress the leading teen comedy role she deserves, and critics have eaten it up thus far. With strong reviews on its side, the R-rated film hits 1,900 screens this weekend, and is on track to perform in the $8–$12 million range, a healthy number considering the production’s $9 million budget.

Outside the top five, Ang Lee’s Billy Lynn’s Halftime Walk expands nationwide, after averaging around $57,000 per screen from two theaters last week. The film has thus far received some of the worst critical reviews of the Life of Pi director’s career, with many noting the film’s 4K HD, 120 frames-per-second, 3D presentation as a major distraction from the movie’s dramatic nuances. Luckily for mainstream audiences, only two theaters in the U.S are equipped to project the film as such, and the rest of the 1,100 locations it opens on this Friday will screen the film in a standard format. It should make around $4–$6 million by Sunday.

Also opening in wide release on 1,549 screens is the Miles Teller boxing drama Bleed for This, based on the real life story of Vinny Pazienza, who refused to back out of the ring despite a serious spinal injury. The film, reportedly produced for around $6 million, also stars Aaron Eckhart, who received a smattering of awards buzz for his supporting performance after the film premiered at Telluride in September.

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