Box-Office Preview: 'Fantastic Beasts' Hopes to Make Magic With $70-80M U.S. Debut

Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros.

The 'Harry Potter' spinoff is the first tentpole of the year-end holidays; 'The Edge of Seventeen' and 'Bleed for This' also open nationwide, while prospects for Ang Lee's 'Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk' are bleak.

More than five years after the boy wizard made his exit from the big screen, Warner Bros. and J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter spinoff Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them should have no trouble conjuring up a first-place finish at the box office this weekend on the eve of the lucrative Thanksgiving corridor.

The $180 million movie, a prequel set 70 years before the events in Harry Potter, is tracking to open in the $70 million-$80 million range in North America and beyond $200 million globally (it is opening day-and-date virtually around the world), according to projections. (The film earned $6.9 million from 5,070 screens in nine international markets Wednesday.)

Based on a script by Rowling, Fantastic Beasts stars Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander, a shy wizard who mistakenly unleashes a suitcase of magical creatures in 1920s New York City. (He's also the author of a textbook used years later by Harry Potter and other students at Hogwarts.)

Daring to open opposite Fantastic Beasts nationwide this weekend are STX's edgy coming-of-age drama The Edge of Seventeen and Open Road's boxing biopic Bleed for This.

Edge of Seventeen, starring Hailee Steinfeld, Blake Jenner, Haley Lu Richardson and Woody Harrelson, looks likely to fare the best with a debut in the $8 million-$10 million range. The R-rated film, a throwback to John Hughes' films, cost a modest $9 million to make and has been embraced by critics. The STX release hopes to lure younger female adults away from Fantastic Beasts, as well as win over high-end comedy fans.

Bleed for This, starring Miles Teller, may not win too many rounds in its U.S. debut. Prerelease tracking suggests the pic will open in the $5 million range.

Ang Lee's Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, a modern-day war drama shot with groundbreaking technology that virtually no theater can project without new equipment, looks set to get knocked out entirely as it expands nationwide after opening in New York and Los Angeles last weekend. The movie, from TriStar/Sony, may only clear $3 million.

With Hollywood entering the heart of awards season, several high-profile releases will debut in select theaters at the specialty box office, including Tom Ford's Nocturnal Animals, from Focus Features, and Kenneth Lonergan's Manchester by the Sea, from Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions.