Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore premieres this weekend, and there’s a chance that it may be the last entry the franchise ever gets. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was always originally the first entry in a trilogy, but was later revised into a series of five films. According to a report by Variety, Warner Bros. never officially greenlit all five of those movies, and the franchise’s recent scandals are making studio executives second-guess their big plans.
Fantastic Beasts and its sequels have struggled from the very beginning with problems that would have stopped a lesser franchise in its tracks. For starters, many Harry Potter fans were surprised by the setting and main characters of these movies, complaining online that this would not have been their first choice for a follow-up series. The execution of this series has been heavily criticized as well, but what is really starting to weigh on it are the controversies surrounding some of its biggest stars. The third movie already features a drastic recasting of the character Grindelwald – previously played by Johnny Depp, now played by Mads Mikkelsen – not to mention the scandal brewing around Ezra Miller and author J.K. Rowling.
As most people probably know by now, Rowling has been increasingly vocal in recent years advocating against transgender rights. She has promoted conspiracy theories about transgender people committing violence against cisgender people, and has alienated a lot of fans that way. Many are now boycotting all Harry Potter releases, products and services since Rowling will inevitably profit from all of them as the franchise’s author.
Meanwhile, Miller has had a few public outbursts ranging from bizarre to violent. He was caught on camera apparently choking a woman at a bar in Iceland almost two years ago, but he managed to avoid legal repercussions. He was not so lucky last month when he was arrested in Hawaii and charged with disorderly conduct for his confrontation behavior in a local bar. Bad publicity aside, the arrest even caused Miller to miss the official premiere for Secrets of Dumbledore.
According to Variety, Fantastic Beasts also just lost a key player behind the camera – Ann Sarnoff, a WarnerMedia executive who was in charge of “all things Harry Potter” before her abrupt dismissal last week. Sarnoff had taken over for executive Kevin Tsujihara in 2019. Normally a franchise of this size might be forced to weather this kind of chaos, the celebrity scandals or the crushing critical failure, but few have been expected to survive all three at once. Film professor Stephen Galloway told Variety: “There have been franchises that have been hit with problems, but not like this. This is a confluence of events that does not bode well.”
Sources at Warner Bros. said that the studio has not ordered a fourth movie yet, and Rowling has not written a script. They said that executives are growing increasingly wary of this series and are planning on making a decision based on how this installment performs at the box office. Even if it flops, The Harry Potter “Wizarding World” franchise is not likely to go away any time soon. In addition to theme parks and merchandise, there are other potential film and TV projects on the table, though nothing is officially in the works.
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore premieres on Friday, April 15 in theaters. Warner Bros. declined to comment on its plans for the future of the franchise.