Universal Pictures won’t see a penny from the sales of the “Fifty Shades of Grey” blindfolds, vibrating love rings and massage oils heating up shelves at Target and others retailers.
U.K.-based online sex shop Lovehoney has the exclusive rights to the “Fifty Shades of Grey” Official Pleasure Collection, which was approved by author E.L. James herself.
The film’s backers, Universal and Focus Features, aren’t commenting directly but they don’t mind the racy gear ringing cash registers one bit; that’s because they know merchandise sales are contributing to the cultural heat behind their steamy Jamie Dornan–Dakota Johnson romance movie, and that means bulging ticket sales.
The “Fifty Shades” book trilogy has sold more than 100 million copies worldwide and is the main reason that consumer awareness of the film is through the roof, data researchers say. But the merchandise and media mania generated by the film are helping to build buzz.
“Universal may not see any direct returns, but all this is building interest in ‘Fifty Shades’ and that’s critical, so they’re definitely benefiting” BoxOffice.com senior analyst Phil Contrino told TheWrap.
His site is projecting a $60 million four-day haul for “Fifty Shades” when it opens on Friday, Feb. 13. That’s the day before Valentine’s Day and the kickoff of the long Presidents Day holiday weekend.
Advance sales for “Fifty Shades” dominated business Wednesday at the top online ticket brokers. Fandango said Tuesday that 60 percent of its sales were for the film, which is already the hottest-selling R-rated movie in its 15-year history. At Movietickets.com, it knocked “American Sniper” out of the top spot and drove a January sales record.
“’Fifty Shades’ is a true phenomenon all across the country,” said Fandango chief correspondent Dave Karger. “It’s also a surprisingly hot seller in the South and Heartland, indicating that the anticipation for this film is across the board.”
Mississippi, Arkansas, West Virginia, Kentucky and Alabama were the five states showing the biggest increase from their standard sales levels thanks to “Fifty Shades,” Fandango said after its researchers studied the data.
Target was hardly the only mainstream outlet looking to cash in on the “Fifty Shades” heat. Internet retailers from Amazon.com to small specialty sites were offering items like the Christian Grey teddy bear, complete with smoldering grey eyes, handcuffs and a blindfold (see photo above).
Even some grocery stores like Albertsons were offering branded handcuffs and ticklers.
And sex shops including Good Vibrations in San Francisco reported seeing a new sort of customer thanks to “Fifty Shades.”
“I had a lot of husbands coming in saying, ‘Oh my God, my wife wants me to tie her up, what should I do?’ First thing I told them, buy a blindfold, because she can’t see that look on your face,” Good Vibrations clerk Jukie Schweit told CBS SF.