'Fantastic Beasts' director David Yates says studio has franchise on 'a pause' after third film

"Fantastic Beasts" director David Yates said this week that the Warner Bros. "Harry Potter" spin-off franchise is on an indefinite pause.

While a guest on the podcast "Inside Total Film," Yates, who directed all three "Beasts" films as well as the final four films of the "Harry Potter" franchise, was asked about the status of the fourth film's production. The franchise is expected to have five installments.

"It's all just parked," Yates said. "We made those three movies, we made that last one through the pandemic ... we're all so proud of that movie, and it went out into the world, we just needed to stop and pause and take it easy."

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Much like other longstanding franchises, such as "Mission: Impossible" and "Fast & Furious," "Fantastic Beasts" has struggled to replicate its pre-pandemic box office success. The most recent film, “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore," was released in April 2022 to the franchise's lowest box-office opening — and went on to become the lowest grossing — of the three films. Since that disappointment, as well as controversy surrounding cast member Ezra Miller, who had a prominent role in the third film, rumors began to swirl that production of a fourth film may be hampered.

In November 2022, Variety reported that Warner Bros. had been in a wait-and-see mode before the release of "The Secrets of Dumbledore," and that no script for a fourth or fifth film was in the works.

In Thursday's podcast, Yates went on to explain that he had initially signed on to direct only a single "Fantastic Beasts" film. Back in 2016, amid debate about whether the film would be a standalone or part of a trilogy, J.K. Rowling made a surprise appearance at a Warner Bros. promotional event in London. During the Q&A session with the "Fantastic Beasts" cast and crew, Rowling announced there would be five films.

That was news to Yates and the rest of the creative team.

“The idea that there were going to be five films was a total surprise to most of us,” Yates said on the podcast. "[Rowling] just mentioned it spontaneously, at a press screening once ... We all looked at each other — because no one had told us there were going to be five. We’d committed to this one. So that was the first we’d heard of it.”

Representatives for Rowling did not immediately respond to The Times' requests for comment. Warner Bros. Pictures declined to comment.

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Yates added that he has yet to speak with Warner Bros., Rowling, or "Fantastic Beasts" and "Harry Potter" producer David Heyman about a fourth film.

"But I'm sure at one point, Newt may well be back," Yates said, referring to the franchise's main character, Newt Scamander, played by Oscar-winning actor Eddie Redmayne. "Who can tell? We haven't gotten any in-depth conversations at the moment."

"Fantastic Beasts" is a prequel to the "Harry Potter" franchise, set about 70 years before Harry, Hermione and Ron become students at Hogwarts. The first film, "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," Rowling's screenwriting debut, was released in 2016. Its sequel, "The Crimes of Grindelwald," came out in 2018 and the third, "The Secrets of Dumbledore," arrived in 2022.

The third installment ended with a setup of a possible all-out wizarding world clash between Scamander, a young Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law), and main antagonist Gellert Grindelwald, who was played in the franchise by Colin Farrell (whose character was in disguise), then Johnny Depp and later Mads Mikkelsen.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.