Monday Morning Quarterback
By BOP Staff
February 17, 2015
Kim Hollis: Fifty Shades of Grey debuted with $85.2 million, beating the February record earned by The Passion of the Christ more than a decade ago. What do you think of this result?
Edwin Davies: In terms of 2015 box office so far, I'd put Fifty Shades of Grey in the same category as SpongeBob Squarepants (I only hope that streaming services don't do the same in the future, otherwise they're going to get some angry emails from parents) in that they're both films that have had stronger opening weekends than I personally expected, but neither defied expectations in the way that American Sniper did. I always thought that Fifty Shades of Grey, with its cultural ubiquity and passionate fan base, could break out in a big way much like its literary and cinematic predecessor Twilight did back in 2008, and this is towards the upper end of those expectations, but it's not exactly mind-blowing.
What is most impressive is the marketing, which was geared towards the target audience but kept enough details (chiefly the Red Room) hidden that people would be enticed to see the film in a theatre, and the way that Universal leveraged the release date to take advantage of Valentine's Day to offset any front loading from Friday. I'd be surprised if the film holds up terribly well in the weeks ahead since the audience response has been very negative, by and large, but when you double your production budget in the first three days - and that's not even getting into the fact that the film earned almost twice as much overseas this weekend as it earned in the US - not even the steepest drop will prevent the film from being a hugely profitable enterprise for everyone involved.
Jason Barney: I think the best way to define the success of this project is to lump it in with the other very successful book to movie efforts over the last decade. Books will always find a different type of media when moved to film. Sometimes they are successful, sometimes not so much. Tom Clancy and Nicholas Sparks might be examples of mid-level success. The gold standard appears to have been matched here. Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Twilight, and to a certain extent the Divergent series are the most recent examples.
The success is undeniable. When the final numbers are in this will be Focus Features' most profitable effort. It is not that they have been on the edge of obscurity, but their projects are usually not put out there for the sole purpose of making money. Usually they bring out stories like Brokeback Mountain, Burn After Reading, The Place Beyond the Pines, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, and Moonrise Kingdom. Most of these are small and successful, but rarely light the world on fire.
All of this is going to change with the success of Fifty Shades of Grey. This is going to be the type of earner for them, with a budget in the $40 million range, that puts some serious savings in the bank. Even if the film is terrible, and I mean the story telling, not the content, it is not going to matter. Fifty Shades of Grey will surpass its budget sometime during the early afternoon shows on Saturday. By the time Sunday night comes around, it will have seriously eaten into is marketing and advertising costs. Along the way, it will have set the record for largest opening in February, and anything it earns after this weekend is gravy. This is the type of success that allows a studio to spread there wings and be more aggressive with future projects.