Box Office Dominatrix: 'Fifty Shades' Nabs $30.2M Friday for Record $80M-Plus Debut

Courtesy of Universal
Dakota Johnson

Colin Firth's 'Kingsman: The Secret Service' is no slouch either; 'American Sniper' crossing $300 million in North America.

Fifty Shades of Grey is easily seducing the North American box office, grossing a potent $30.2 million Friday for a possible $80 million-plus debut over the long Valentine's Day and Presidents Day weekend.

Overseas, the results are even more astounding. The movie is opening to No. 1 in 56 markets for a projected $158.3 million international debut — the highest opening ever for an R-rated film and the second best for Universal after Fast & Furious 6 ($160.3 million). That would put Fifty Shades' global launch north of $235 million.

Domestically, the film adaptation of EL James' S&M-laced romance novel will easily best the $63.1 million launch of Valentine's Day in 2010 to tie up the best showing of all time for the holiday. Universal is playing it safe and estimating $76.1 million for the four days, although other box office pundits believe Fifty Shades could land north of $80 million, thanks to what's expected to be a huge turnout on Valentine's Day.

Friday's take represents the largest opening day ever for February, eclipsing the $26.6 million earned by The Passion of the Christ on Ash Wednesday in 2004, not accounting for inflation.

Females made up the vast majority of Friday's audience and appear to be divided over the movie, giving it a C+ CinemaScore. That's not surprising, considering the subject matter. Regardless, Fifty Shades' performance is a major win for Universal and James.

The weekend's second new release, Matthew Vaughn's Kingsman: The Secret Service, is no slouch either. The Fox film, earning a B+ CinemaScore, opened to an estimated $10.5 million on Friday for $38 million-$40 million debut, well ahead of expectations. Combined, the two movies should help deliver one of the best Presidents Day weekends of all time in terms of overall revenue.

Fifty Shades is playing in 3,646 locations, the widest release to date for an R-rated film. Directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, Fifty Shades stars Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan.

In terms of advance ticket sales, Fifty Shades is the top Valentine's Day release of all time and has become Fandango's No. 4 advance seller of all time, behind The Twilight Saga: New Moon, the final Harry Potter movie and The Hunger Games.

While women dominated on Friday, it appears that many are convincing their partners to make the movie a Valentine's Day destination. According to MovieTickets.com, 80 percent of tickets for Valentine's Day (Saturday) are being purchased by couples. That compares to 26 percent for Friday.

Fifty Shades is likewise doing seductive business overseas, where it has earned $66 million in its first three days after rolling out in its first markets Wednesday. The movie is breaking numerous records, including scoring the biggest opening day ever in Argentina. And in 34 territories, it scored the top opening day ever for a film rated the equivalent of R or higher.

To say the movie's global launch would be a blockbuster start is an understatement, taking into account that it cost a relatively modest $40 million to make. James' trilogy is a global phenomenon, and it looks like the film will follow suit. The Fifty Shades books have been translated into 52 languages and sold more than 100 million copies worldwide.

Thanks to its racy subject matter, Fifty Shades won't be playing everywhere, of course. Malaysia, a predominately Muslim country, has banned the film, while other Muslim countries aren't likely to play it either.

From Fox, Kingsman hopes to serve as counterprogramming by providing an alternative for males, as well as females not so interested in Fifty Shades (females made up 42 percent of Friday's audience). The movie, described as James Bond-meets-Kick-Ass, stars Colin Firth and Samuel L. Jackson. The $80 million-plus film has received far better reviews than Fifty Shades, as well as a stronger exits.

In the film, Firth plays a quirky spy training his young, sometimes stubborn, recruits. Kingsman is playing in 3,204 locations.

Elsewhere at the North American box office, Clint Eastwood's American Sniper will jump the $300 million mark sometime on Sunday, while The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water will stay high up on the chart in its second weekend as it approaches $100 million in domestic box office receipts.

Feb. 13, 7:45 a.m. Updated with Kingsman numbers.

Feb. 14, 7:15 a.m. Updated with Friday numbers.

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