It’s pretty much a given that the “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie is going to run away from “Kingsman: The Secret Service” and shatter box-office records for the Valentines and Presidents Day holiday weekend when it opens Friday.
Its core audience is the more than 100 million people have read E.L. James’ trilogy about the kinky sex-seared romance between mousy lit student Anastasia Steele, played in the movie by Dakota Johnson, and the wealthy and mysterious businessman Christian Grey, played by Jamie Dornan.
Enough of those readers, a group that skews so female that the books were dubbed “mommy porn,” will turn out that a four-day haul north of $60 million seems assured for the adaptation from Universal Pictures and Focus Features, say analysts.
But they also say the R-rated “Fifty Shades” will go even higher if two things happen: the film’s off-the-charts awareness level translates into tickets sales to people who haven’t read the books, and female fans mobilize in major numbers and turn it into a “girls-night-out” event.
That’s what happened back in 2008 when packs of young women hit the town and drove Warner Bros.’ “Sex and the City” to a $57 million opening that set a record for romantic and R-rated comedies.
“And I see that happening with ‘Fifty Shades,’ just based on the social media,” said Exhibitor Relations senior analyst Jeff Bock, who projects a $75 million four-day total. “I think it will be huge on Saturday because it is Valentine’s Day, but I don’t know about Sunday and Monday,” he said.
There haven’t been many films like “Fifty Shades,” and “Sex and the City” is one of the few movies that can serve as a comparison, and another is the male stripper tale “Magic Mike,” which opened to $39 million in 2012.
Tracking has been strong and steady on “Fifty Shades” for weeks and it was the most-viewed trailer on YouTube last year. Social-media volume has been pacing with some of Hollywood’s biggest franchises, and has collected almost 8 million Facebook fans. It was dominating advance ticket sales Wednesday at Movietickets.com and at Fandango, and it has been the fastest-selling R-rated film ever at both online retailers.
Significantly, 33 percent of the ticket buyers responding to a Fandango survey said that they would be going in a group, and Movietickets.com reports similar numbers.
The lack of comps and so-so reviews – it’s at 43 percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes – seem to be the only question marks.
But even if “Fifty Shades” doesn’t go through the roof, it still stands to be a big financial win for Universal. The production budget is $39 million and even if the marketing spend approached that, its grosses will cover those costs in a week. And the two stars are under contract for potential sequels.
“Fifty Shades of Grey” is directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson and produced by Michael De Luca and Dana Brunetti and author James. The screenplay was written by Kelly Marcel.
It will be a market-high 3,645 theaters in the U.S., and roll out worldwide this weekend as well. Exhibitors say more than 4.5 million advance tickets have been sold abroad already.
The very male-skewing “Kingsman: The Secret Service” is a classic counter play to “Fifty Shades” by Twentieth Century Fox, and is aiming for $30 million over the four days.
The action adventure stars Colin Firth as a droll super spy, a departure for the actor who’s normally seen in more cerebral fare like “The King’s Speech” and “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.”
The tracking has been steady and the critics are impressed by the film, which is at 79 percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes. On social media, its roughly in line with “The Equlizer,” the Denzel Washington action film that opened to $34 million last year.
The “Kingsman” production budget is $80 million and it has brought nearly $18 million from several overseas markets including the U.K. and Australia.
“Kingsman: The Secret Service” will be in roughly 3,204 theaters.