Box Office: 'Fifty Shades of Grey' Makes Lots of Green Over Valentine's Day Weekend


By Pamela McClintock

Universal’s Fifty Shades of Grey enjoyed a massive bump on Valentine’s Day, putting the female-fueled film adaptation of E.L. James’ S&M-laced romance novel on course to earn a mighty $90.7 million in North American over the long Presidents Day holiday.

That includes $81.7 million for the three-day weekend, the No. 2 February opening of all time after Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ ($83.8 million). It is also one of the top showings ever for an R-rated title. Technically, the record-holder is The Matrix Reloaded, which posted a three-day debut of $91.8 million in 2003.

The numbers for Fifty Shades could shift when final four-day estimates are released Monday morning.

Overseas, the results are even more astounding for Universal. Fifty Shades is opening to No. 1 in 56 markets for a projected $158.3 million international debut — the highest opening ever for an R-rated film and the second best for Universal after Fast & Furious 6 ($160.3 million). That would put Fifty Shades' global launch at roughly $250 million (foreign numbers weren't immediately available).

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Domestically, Fifty Shades is easily besting the $63.1 million opening of Valentine’s Day in 2010 to tie up the best showing of all time for the holiday. Fifty Shades is playing in 3,646 locations, the widest release to date for an R-rated film. Directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, the movie stars Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan.

Females made up the vast majority of the audience overall, but couples turned out in force on Saturday to celebrate Valentine’s Day. The movie earned $36.7 million for the day — a hefty 21 percent spike despite a middling C+ CinemaScore (box office pundits aren’t surprised by the CinemaScore, considering the subject matter).

To say the movie’s global launch is a blockbuster start for Universal is an understatement, taking into account that it cost a relatively modest $40 million to make. James’ trilogy is a global phenomenon, and the film quickly followed suit, delivering a new franchise for the studio. The Fifty Shades books have been translated into 52 languages and sold more than 100 million copies worldwide.

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The weekend’s second new release, Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman: The Secret Service, is no slouch either. The Fox film grossed an estimated $35.6 million for the three days for a $41 million debut over the long holiday, well ahead of expectations.

From Fox, Kingsman succeeded in serving as counterprogramming by providing an alternative for males, as well as females not so interested in Fifty Shades. It likewise saw a big bump on Valentine’s Day, soaring 47 percent from Friday.

The movie, described as James Bond-meets-Kick-Ass, stars Colin Firth and Samuel L. Jackson. The $80 million-plus film has received far better reviews than Fifty Shades, as well as a stronger exits and a B+ CinemaScore,

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In the film, Firth plays a quirky spy training his young, sometimes stubborn, recruits. Kingsman is playing in 3,204 locations.

Elsewhere at the North American box office, Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper is jumping the $300 million mark, while The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water will finish its second weekend with nearly $100 million in ticket sales.

Watch an interview with the cast of Fifty Shades of Grey below: