Box Office: 'Fifty Shades of Grey' Tracking for $45M-Plus Debut

Fifty Shades of Grey - H - 2014

The film adaptation of EL James' erotic novel sports massive awareness and is drawing the most interest among older females; Colin Firth's 'Kingsman: Secret Service,' which opens the same day, is no slouch either

Fifty Shades of Grey — one of the most anticipated movies in recent memory — is headed for a North American debut of at least $45 million over Valentine's Day and Presidents Day weekend, according to early tracking.

The Universal and Focus Features title is attracting massive interest, according to those with access to pre-release surveys. It's hardly a surprise, considering the hype surrounding the film adaptation of EL James' best-selling erotic novel, a cultural phenomenon among women. Nor is it a surprise that females over the age of 25 are most interested in seeing the R-rated offering, while men aren't as inclined to show up, although Universal still has three weeks of advertising left to go.

Starring Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan, Fifty Shades hits theaters Feb. 13. More bullish box-office observers believe it will cross $50 million in its four-day debut, eclipsing Ghost Rider ($52 million) to post the second-best showing of all time for the holiday after Valentine's Day ($63.1 million), rated PG-13.

Fifty Shades, costing a relatively modest $40 million to make, is uncharted territory for a big studio title if it makes good on the book's themes of bondage, dominance and sadomasochism (Universal made sure the movie was tame enough to secure an R rating, versus an NC-17). The indie film Secretary, which featured similar themes, never played nationwide when released in 2002. Sam Taylor-Johnson directed Fifty Shades.

If there's any concern about tracking for Fifty Shades, it's that definite interest lags somewhat in comparison to awareness. But Universal insiders note there's still time to boost interest. Also, it's possible that some consumers are shy about admitting they want to see Fifty Shades, according to several box-office observers.

Among other female-centric titles, Sex and the City debuted to $57 million in 2008, while The Fault in Our Stars raked in $48 million last year.

Fifty Shades wasn't the only Presidents Day title coming on tracking Thursday to strong numbers: Matthew Vaughn's Kingsman: The Secret Service, starring Colin Firth, could gross north of $30 million for the four-day weekend and is appealing to both males and females.

The Fox film was designed to serve as counterprogramming to Fifty Shades by providing an offering for men, yet that title shows heat among women as well, according to tracking.

Kingsman, described as James Bond meets Kick-Ass, stars Firth as an elite British spy tasked with recruiting younger members. Samuel L. Jackson also stars. It is likewise rated R.