The racy R-rated movie, Fifty Shades of Grey (distributed by Universal Pictures), exerted dominance over the Valentine’s Day weekend at the box office, becoming the number one movie in America with an estimated gross of $81.7 million in just three days. Monday’s take might bring the total to over $90 million, which could take it past February’s highest-grossing movie to date, Passion of the Christ. In 2004, it had an opening of $83.9 million.
Overseas, Fifty Shades of Grey, based on the novel by E.L. James and directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, 47, also did very well over the weekend. In 58 territories worldwide, and 9,637 screens, it has grossed an additional $158 million.
Not bad at all, especially for a movie that had an estimated production cost of just $40 million. Fifty Shades of Grey stars Dakota Johnson in the role of her character, Anastasia Steele, who is tempted into exploring and expanding her sexual boundaries. Billionaire Christian Grey, played by Jamie Dornan, is keen to take Anastasia to whatever kinky new heights she is willing to go, as he has apparently done with many women before her.
Movie-goers in the north eastern states braved snowy and bitterly cold conditions to see Fifty Shades of Grey. The flick also did well in Southern states and even mid-size and small-size markets, according to Nick Carpou, Universal’s President of Domestic Distribution.
With the international take for Fifty Shades of Grey taken into account, the movie is Universal Picture’s second-biggest international opening ever, and the highest-grossing international debut for an R-rated flick. Only the international debut of Universal Picture’s Fast & Furious 6 had a higher gross for the company, with a take of $160.3 million its first weekend. Globally, Fifty Shades of Grey has grossed a total of $248.7 million.
Up until the debut of Fifty Shades of Grey, the largest-grossing movie that opened over the Valentine’s Day weekend was one with the apt title of Valentine’s Day. That movie debuted in 2010 and grossed $56.3 million its first weekend out of the gates.
A challenge that the director of Fifty Shades of Grey, Sam Taylor-Johnson, faced was to push the envelope and be right on the edge of what is allowed in an R-rated movie. She managed to meet the challenge and the result is a movie which has managed to earn as much as many summer blockbuster films, but in February. The controversial nature of the novels and the fact that they have all been huge best-sellers has also, undoubtedly, led to the success of the film.
Yet another factor in the success of Fifty Shades of Grey is that the Valentine’s Day weekend turned out to be a great time for a movie about kinky sex to debut. Universal Pictures had, originally, intended for the debut to be during the summer. Then, it would have faced competition from some of the superhero blockbusters that debuted then, and it would probably have not done nearly as well as it has by opening over Valentine’s Day weekend.
Speaking of how well Fifty Shades of Grey has done domestically, compared to the openings of other R-rated movies, it had the fourth-biggest opening of all time. The Matrix Reloaded, which debuted in 2003, came in first place, with $91.8-million, though with Monday’s figures included, Fifty Shades of Grey could surpass that number. At number 2 is American Sniper, with the third place taken by The Hangover Part II.
The audience that went to see Fifty Shades of Grey was mostly composed of couples and women who were older than 25. Reportedly, females composed 68 percent of the audiences that flocked to see the flick, while females over 25 composed 58 percent of the movie goers.
Among the other records that Fifty Shades of Grey is in the process of setting, it is also now the largest-grossing debut ever for a movie with a female director. British director Sam Taylor-Johnson’s take at directing the kinky flick has landed her in elite company. Unbroken, also from Universal and directed by Angelina Jolie, by comparison has earned $160 million since its Christmas debut. Though the movie just received a meager positive rating of 26 percent at the Rotten Tomatoes site, it has done phenomenally well where it counts the most, at the box office.
Fifty Shades of Grey exerted its dominance over the box office this weekend, even exceeding the expectations of Universal Pictures, which estimated that the movie might earn around $60 million during its debut. If the movie continues to do well on Presidents Day, this coming Monday, it might break even more records.
Written By Douglas Cobb