The arrival of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has finally brought the wizarding world of J.K. Rowling back to theaters. After it’s first weekend in cinemas, the Eddie Redmayne-led prequel to the Harry Potter series has taken in more than enough to keep it at the top of the box office – though its $75 million opening is at the bottom end of Warner Bros.’ initial predictions. Nonetheless, fan and critical reactions to the film have been overall positive.
Because of its initial stature as a highly successful series of children’s novels, the Harry Potter franchise has long been viewed by many as having a core demographic made up of children. And rightly so – by the time Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets hit theaters back in 2002, 60 percent of the audience was under the age of 15. But as the children who grew up with the books and films aged, Harry Potter’s appeal expanded to teens and adults alike.
Now some 15 years on from the first Harry Potter film, Forbes is reporting that the arrival of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has not only laid claim to the lowest opening take of any Potter film, but that the bulk of its audience is adults over the age of 35. While the later films in the Potter series drew in a solid fanbase throughout the 18-35 demographic, Fantastic Beasts is so far on track to be an older fan event. According to Forbes, “The film played 18% under-18 and 45% over the age of 35, a number that implies that it is playing as an older fan affair as opposed to enticing the next generation of would-be Potter nerds.”
The fact that Fantastic Beasts is appealing primarily to adults right now shouldn’t really come as a surprise. As Rowling’s Harry Potter novels grew up, so too did her readers. The increasingly hefty page count, dark tone, and nuanced characterizations of the books helped the kids who enjoyed the first story come back well past puberty. Bloomsbury even began publishing so-called adult editions of the novels, which sold very well in their own right. Because Fantastic Beasts is a spin-off with only one actual J.K. Rowling book to its credit (which itself is a fictional textbook), it may take time to build a fanbase comparable to the original series.
Putting aside the question of whether or not the Fantastic Beasts franchise could ever even come close to the success of Harry Potter, it’s worth noting the shifts the franchise saw in its demographic over time. Fantastic Beasts may also continue to expand and grow with each successive installment. By the time Fantastic Beasts 2 comes around in 2018, that “over 35″ demographic just might be bringing their children along, thereby building up a future audience of proverbial “Potter nerds”.