Weekend Wrap-Up

Fifty Shades of Box Office Glory

By John Hamann

February 15, 2015

You know, he doesn't *have* to sit on the arm. The couch is empty.

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Fifty Shades of Grey's opening Friday was just a few thousand behind that of American Sniper, which debuted to $30.3 million a month earlier. We now have two films in 2015 within the top 60 opening days of all-time and we are only 47 days into the year. The debut of Fifty Shades of Grey was bigger than people were expecting, and Valentine’s Day hadn’t hit yet.

The question, then, became how Fifty Shades of Grey would do on Valentine’s Day. Was it front-loaded due to the success of the book like the Twilight films were? Did some fans wait until the 14th to check out Fifty Shades with their Valentine? Finding a comparable for something like this is difficult, but when 50 First Dates debuted on a Valentine’s Saturday in 2004, it earned $10 million Friday, $20 million Saturday and then $10 million again on Sunday. One doesn’t have to be a mathematician to figure out that 50 First Dates was the opposite of front-loaded, but A) Thursday previews didn’t exist in 2004, and B) 50 First Dates was not based on a poorly written bestseller (it was just a poorly written movie). In the end, Valentine’s Day for Fifty Shades of Grey earned $36.7 million on Saturday, a slight uptick from the previous day (including previews). So, it did receive a bit of a Valentine's Day bump, though it was probably impacted slightly with a Friday night rush.

Over the three-day portion of the weekend, Fifty Shades of Grey earned an out-of-hand $81.7 million from 3,646 venues, which was a record location count for an R-rated release, but smaller than your standard blockbuster, as they go out to 4,000+ screens. The venue average was stellar at $22,400. The opening weekend couldn’t beat the February record held by The Passion of the Christ, which earned $83.8 million in 2004, but is a very solid second, ahead of The Lego Movie’s $69.1 million debut last year. It is the fifth biggest R-rated debut ever, behind The Matrix Reloaded ($91.8 million), American Sniper ($89.3 million), The Hangover Part II ($85.9 million), and The Passion of the Christ. It is easily the biggest President’s Day weekend release ever, well ahead of Valentine’s Day, which earned $56.3 million in 2010.


Fifty Shades of Grey opened huge without costing its makers a fortune. The film was made for $40 million, a tiny amount compared to most blockbusters. A debut weekend like this one will pay back the production budget, while the first 10 days should easily recover the marketing costs. Overseas, Fifty Shades has had the same ridiculous kind of success, as it has already earned $158 million from those venues.

The question is how front-loaded Fifty Shades of Grey is going to be. Word-of-mouth isn’t going to be much according to the usual indicators. At RottenTomatoes, Fifty Shades is 26% fresh – expected in my mind - but the Cinemascore of C+ is bad news, as regular moviegoer commentary is not good. This score would have come from fans of the book, which has helped Twilight’s Cinemascores in the past, but couldn’t prop up Fifty Shades. As much as we are seeing a record this weekend, this erotic drama could have a lot in common with the Friday the 13th reboot. That one opened on Valentine’s Day weekend where the big day fell on a Saturday and was huge with a $40.6 million opening, but then dropped 80% in its second weekend. The same thing will likely happen here.

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