Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them dominated the weekend box office, debuting to a boisterous $75 million in North America and launching a new cinematic franchise.

It confirms Warner Bros’ high hopes for the property and its decision to back five instalments in the fantasy series. Fantastic Beasts is a spin-off of the Harry Potter films, but instead of Hogwarts, it unfolds in 1920s New York City and features an entirely new cast of wizards and mythical creatures.

The studio spent $180 million to make the picture, enlisting Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling to write the screenplay and bringing back David Yates, the director of several previous boy wizard outings. Eddie Redmayne stars as Newt Scamander, a textbook writer and collector of the titular beasts.

“This is dead on what we were looking for,” said Jeff Goldstein, president of domestic distribution at Warner Bros. “J.K. Rowling brilliantly told a story that inspired her fanbase to come out in a big way.”

It was a softer opening than any of the previous Potter films but Warner Bros argues that comparisons are not fair. Those movies were based on global bestsellers, whereas Fantastic Beasts is largely an original work.

“It’s not the same,” said Goldstein. “It’s apples and kumquats.”

Audiences may have embraced the return to Potter-dom but they gave the cold shoulder to several new films, among them the boxing drama Bleed for This and the Iraq War drama Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. Both pictures bombed, with Bleed for This eking out $2.4 million and Billy Lynn’s mustering $930,000 after expanding from four to 1,176 theatres. It has earned $1.1 million since opening in limited release a week ago, a disastrous result for a film that was expected to be a major Oscar contender.

Open Road is distributing Bleed for This, which chronicles Vinny Pazienza’s efforts to get back into the ring after a car accident. It has a $6 million budget, which cushions the box office blow.

Sony is backing Billy Lynn’s along with Bona Film Group, Film4, and Studio 8. The $40 million is a technological gamble. Ang Lee shot the picture so it could be exhibited at 120 frames per second in 3D at 4K HD resolution in order to achieve greater clarity and realism. Critics have been divided about the look of the picture, with some faulting it for looking too much like a telenovela. It’s something of a moot point, as only a handful of theatres have the ability to exhibit the film at the higher speeds.

Second place went to Marvel’s Doctor Strange, which brought in $17.5 million to push its domestic gross to $181.5 million after three weeks in theaters. DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls took third, earning $17.5 million to bring its haul to $116.2 million.

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