“Fifty Shades of Grey” easily
dominated the competition this Valentine’s Day weekend. The number of
weeks open for each film is in parentheses.
|in millions of dollars|
|1.||Fifty Shades of Grey (1)||81.7||81.7|
|2.||Kingsman: The Secret Service (1)||35.6||35.6|
|3.||The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water (2)||30.5||93.7|
|4.||American Sniper (8)||16.4||304.1|
|5.||Jupiter Ascending (2)||9.4||32.6|
|6.||Seventh Son (2)||4.2||13.4|
|8.||The Imitation Game (12)||3.5||79.7|
|9.||The Wedding Ringer (5)||3.4||59.7|
|10.||Project Almanac (3)||2.7||19.6|
“Fifty Shades of Grey”
sizzled at the weekend box office, setting new records for the
highest-grossing Presidents Day holiday opener of all time and ranking
among the biggest R-rated debuts in history.
The erotic drama performed like a comicbook movie, albeit one with
much naughtier costumes, picking up $81.7 million from 3,646 locations
over the three-day period. That easily trumped the holiday’s previous
record-holder, the 2010 debut of the romantic comedy “Valentine’s Day,”
which kicked off with $56.3 million.
“It had that whole sex thing going for it, it was edgy, and it
started a conversation,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior box office
analyst at Rentrak. “It went beyond being a girls’ night out movie and
became a date night movie.”
“Fifty Shades of Grey” will do more than $90 million over the
four-day holiday, in addition to triggering a massive increase in heart
palpitations across the moviegoing public. Among the many high-water
marks the saucy tale has hit, the film’s debut is the second-biggest in
February history behind “The Passion of the Christ” and the
fourth-biggest R-rated premiere, trailing “The Matrix Reloaded,” “The
Hangover: Part II” and Mel Gibson’s aforementioned crucifixion tale.
It’s been more than a decade since “Basic Instinct” and “Disclosure”
heated up the box office with sexually charged bigscreen fantasies and
visions. The Internet and explicit cable TV shows had made kinky
cinematic adventures seem positively anachronistic, but by mixing
romance with bondage, author E.L. James was able to put a fresh spin on a
limp genre, selling 100 million copies of her book and inspiring the
smash hit movie. It’s an approach that could usher in a new period of
sexual candor in cinema — at the very least it seems likely to last
through “Fifty Shades” parts two and three.
In marketing materials, Universal Pictures, the studio behind the $40
million production, emphasized the love story elements of the tale of a
brooding billionaire (Jamie Dornan) who whisks a timid college student
(Dakota Johnson) away into a world of glider rides, pregnant pauses,
smoldering glances, impossibly tight jeans, and the occasional detour
“We worked to make this film accessible to the widest audience
possible,” said Nick Carpou, Universal’s president of domestic
distribution. “The campaign was carefully crafted to highlight the
quality of the production value and to heighten the romantic aspect of
the storyline and the interpersonal relationship at its heart.”
Universal had originally slated “Fifty Shades of Grey” for an October
2014 release but moved its premiere to Valentine’s Day. The timing
“The gamble paid off,” said Phil Contrino, vice president and chief
analyst at BoxOffice.com. “It flies in the face of what you’d expect to
be released on that day. It’s usually safe and non-offensive dramas and
“Fifty Shades of Grey’s” opening weekend audience was 68% female, 52%
Caucasian, 22% Hispanic and 15% African-American. The picture played
well on premium large format screens, which drew $7.4 million, as well
as on Imax, which contributed $2.1 million. Reviews for the film were
tepid, and it appears audiences agree with critics, handing the film a
lackluster C+ CinemaScore grade. Most analysts think the film will fall
sharply in its follow-up weekends.
The movie business tends to be fixated on youth, but this Presidents
Day was remarkable for the amount of adult-oriented content it boasted.
“Fifty Shades of Grey” wasn’t the only R-rated picture that did
impressive business — 20th Century Fox’s tongue-in-cheek spy thriller “Kingsman: The Secret Service” premiered to $35.6 million from 3,204 locations. It should do more than $41 million over the four-day holiday.
Like “Fifty Shades of Grey,” “Kingsman” had originally been scheduled
to debut last October, but Fox saw an opening for some
counterprogramming. It knew that “Fifty Shades” would be the clear
choice for female ticket buyers, allowing the studio to siphon off male
“We knew [‘Fifty Shades of Grey’] was going to be a big movie, but it
seemed like everyone else was staying away, and we saw an opportunity,”
said Chris Aronson, Fox’s domestic distribution chief. “This is a
terrific, smart action movie that’s primarily geared toward males.”
Filmed for $81 million and directed by “X-Men:First Class” helmer
Matthew Vaughn, “Kingsman” features Colin Firth as a sort of ass-kicking
George Smiley and newcomer Taron Egerton as the street tough he takes
under his impeccably tailored wing. Fifty seven percent of the film’s
opening weekend crowd was male, and 60% was over the age of 25.
Last weekend’s champ, “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water,” was
able to mop up the family business, earning an estimated $30.5 million
for the three-day weekend. The animated sequel will have made more than
$100 million by the time the holiday ends.
Warner Bros.’ “American Sniper” blasted past another benchmark,
crossing $300 million at the domestic box office after adding another
$16.4 million over the weekend.
Fifth place finisher “Jupiter Ascending”
insured that there will be writedowns at Warner Bros. The
science-fiction adventure took in $9.4 million for the three-day period
and has made $32.5 million since it debuted last weekend. Its $176
million production budget and tens of millions in marketing and
distribution costs make profitability nearly impossible.
Among milestones, “Big Hero 6″ passed “Beauty and the Beast” to
become the third highest-grossing Disney Animation release with $219.3
million, behind “The Lion King” and “Frozen.”
On the arthouse front, the Anna Kendrick musical comedy “The Last
Five Years” pulled in $45,107 across three screens, for a per-screen
average of $15,036. The Radius-TWC release also debuted on
video-on-demand. The indie label’s “Citizenfour,” the Oscar-nominated
documentary about Edward Snowden, made $31,138 this weekend from 17
theaters, pushing its total to $2.6 million. That’s a strong figure for
documentaries, which are lucky to reach $1 million theatrically.
Thanks to “Fifty Shades of Grey’s” utter domination, the Stateside
box office is poised to have a record-breaking Presidents Day weekend.
Rentrak estimates that ticket sales hit $209 million for the three day
period, eclipsing the $205 million mark set in 2010, and the overall box
office should top out at $240 million, squeaking ahead of the $239
million it hit that same year.
Sex, it seems, still sells, especially when it involves a riding crop.
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