By Agence France-Presse
This second Harry Potter prequel came in slightly behind the first "Fantastic Beasts" movie, which earned $74.4 million in its opening three-day weekend, but it has already scored an impressive $253.2 million overseas. Warner Bros. plans three more "Beasts" movies.
Written by Rowling and directed by David Yates, "Grindelwald" stars Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander as he works with Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) to take down the evil Gellert Grindelwald, played with typical panache by Johnny Depp.
In a rare weekend when neither horror nor superhero movies dominated, second place went to family-friendly "The Grinch" from Universal, which tallied $38.2 million.
The ever-popular Dr. Seuss tale has Benedict Cumberbatch voicing the ill-tempered green title character, with support from Rashida Jones, Kenan Thompson and Angela Lansbury.
In third spot, with $15.7 million in ticket sales, was Fox's "Bohemian Rhapsody," the foot-stomping biopic about Freddie Mercury and rock group Queen. Rami Malek has drawn strong reviews for his portrayal of the British singer/songwriter.
Fourth went to new Paramount release "Instant Family," starring Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne as a married couple who take in three foster kids over the holidays. It earned $14.7 million and has drawn an "A" rating from audiences polled by CinemaScore.
In fifth was Fox's "Widows," at $12.3 million. Directed by Steve McQueen of "12 Years a Slave" fame, it stars Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez and Elizabeth Debicki as a group of women who try to pull off a heist after their husbands are killed in a botched robbery.
Rounding out the weekend's top 10 were:
"The Nutcracker and the Four Realms" ($4.7 million)
"A Star Is Born" ($4.4 million)
"Overlord" ($3.9 million)
"The Girl in the Spider's Web" ($2.5 million)
"Nobody's Fool" ($2.3 million)