Who says sex doesn’t sell? “Fifty Shades of Grey” dominated the weekend box office, breaking records as the highest-grossing Presidents Day holiday opener of all time. Not only that, it’s also one of the biggest R-rated debuts in history.
Although I didn’t need Box Office Mojo to tell me that, because when I saw the movie on Thursday night here in Traverse City, Michigan, the film was sold out. That’s unheard of. For a Thursday night premiere, it’s usually only me and a handful of other moviegoers in the theater.
The erotic drama picked up an astounding $94.4 million over the four-day weekend, and opened to a stunning $158 million at the international box office. 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.
“Fifty Shades” is also the fourth-biggest R-rated premiere, trailing “The Matrix Reloaded,” “The Hangover: Part II” and Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.”
Timing is everything, and Universal had originally scheduled “Fifty Shades” for an October 2014 release but moved the premiere to Valentine’s Day. That was a good move, even though, as Christian says in the movie, “I don’t do romance.” Whether the movie is romantic or not varies widely among moviegoers.
The movie’s opening weekend audience was 68 percent female, 52 Caucasian, 22 percent Hispanic and 15 percent 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.
Catering to male moviegoers, 20th Century Fox’s R-rated spy thriller “Kingsman: The Secret Service” premiered to $36.2 million, in the same ballpark as recent action movies “Taken 3” ($39.2 million) and “The Equalizer” ($34.1 million).
For the four-day weekend, it earned an estimated $41 million, which trounces past President’s Day action titles like “The Wolfman,” “Constantine,” “Jumper,” and “A Good Day to Die Hard.”
After a strong debut last weekend, “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water” fell 43 percent to an estimated $31.7 million this weekend. “American Sniper” eased 29 percent to $16.5 million, which ranks eighth all-time among fifth weekends. On Sunday, Clint Eastwood’s war film starring Bradley Cooper as the most lethal sniper in military history passed $300 million, and remains on track to become the highest-grossing movie from 2014 with more than $340 million.
“Jupiter Ascending” rounded out the Top Five with an estimated $9.2 million, off 50 percent from last weekend. The big-budget sci-fi flick has earned $32.4 million to date. Meanwhile, “Seventh Son” dropped 43 percent to $4.14 million, which brings its total to an unimpressive $13.4 million.
After a month in limited release, “Still Alice,” starring the award-winning Julianne Moore (who will most likely walk away with a Best Actress Oscar next Sunday) as a woman with early onset Alzheimer’s, expanded to 502 locations and earned an estimated $1.7 million. The movie has so far grossed $4.6 million.
“Old Fashioned,” a Christian romance pegged as an alternative to “Fifty Shades,” earned less than $1 million at 224 locations. But that’s still the biggest weekend ever for a faith-based movie playing at fewer than 300 theaters.
“What We Do in the Shadows” opened to $65,800 at just two locations, with nearly all shows sold out. The vampire comedy will expand to the top 25 markets by the end of the month.
“The Last Five Years” earned about $42,000 at three locations this weekend, and was also available on Video On Demand.