CALIFORNIA, United States, Thursday February 19, 2015 – Universal’s controversial Fifty Shades of Grey whipped all competition, past and present, by making the biggest-ever US debut for the President’s Day long weekend with a massive take of US$90.7 million.
It also licked the opposition in the UK and Ireland, where its $21.5m haul was the highest for a film with an 18 certificate, with similar achievements chalked up in Germany, Russia, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Australia, Philippines and New Zealand.
In all, Sam Taylor-Johnson’s adaptation of EL James’ bestseller about a kinky Seattle billionaire and his sex slave made $248.7m at the worldwide box office at the weekend, making it the highest global debut of 2015 to date.
Fifty Shades of Grey’s $248.7m global take thrashed the $241.6m total achieved by Avatar, which went on to be the highest-grossing film of all time, in 2009. Some commentators nevertheless point out that previews and early openings mean Fifty Shades is counting a potential five-day take against Avatar’s three-day weekend.
Over the last several years, only big-budget sci-fi and fantasy movies like The Avengers ($392.5m), Iron Man 3 ($372.5m), The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One ($273.9m), X-Men: Days of Future Past ($262.9m), Transformers: Age of Extinction ($302.1m) and The Dark Knight Rises ($248.9m) have performed better.
Most of those blockbusters nevertheless benefited from huge audiences in China and Japan, the world’s second- and third-largest markets. The Fifty Shades novels were unpopular in Japan and the movie is unlikely to get a release in conservative China, so Universal’s film is to some extent handicapped by diminished numbers in these markets.
Fifty Shades total will have taken the studio by surprise, given a budget of just $40m and expectations of a haul of around $110m worldwide. The film’s success means sequels, based on James’ follow-up novels Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed, are inevitable.
Commentators are predicting that a new wave of copycat erotic fare, aimed at a similar marketplace, could follow.
EL James’ exotic trilogy has sold more than 100m copies worldwide, so the film benefitted from a ready-made audience of Christian Grey (played by Irish actor Jamie Dornan) and Anastasia Steele (played by American actress Dakota Johnson) fans.
It nevertheless had to overcome negative publicity surrounding the author’s spats with director Taylor-Johnson over dialogue, as well as several scathing reviews.
At the time of writing, Fifty Shades of Grey held a rating of just 26 percent “rotten” on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes.