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This story first appeared in the Oct. 17 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Universal shelled out precious dollars to play a trailer for Fifty Shades of Grey before David Fincher‘s edgy R-rated thriller Gone Girl, which explores a similarly twisted relationship. But can the S&M-laced Fifty Shades, which opens Valentine’s Day weekend, attract as many guys as Gone Girl did? Or is it strictly for the, well, girls?
Gone Girl, which debuted to a strong $37.5 million, drew an audience that was relatively balanced, with males making up 40 percent of ticket buyers. Observers believe couples, in particular, turned out in force. “If a female is really dying to see something, the guy will go. But it has to have appeal for a guy. With Gone Girl, you have Fincher and you have Ben Affleck,” says Rentrak analyst Paul Dergarabedian. “I haven’t read Fifty Shades, but it seems to have more female appeal.”
It does, and Fifty Shades lead Jamie Dornan can’t match Affleck’s star power. So while female-only appeal can pay off (Sex and the City bowed to a massive $57 million in 2008, with women making up 85 percent of its audience), Universal hopes the Gone Girl couples can be convinced to sample Fifty Shades. One top executive believes the Valentine’s Day opening will help tip the scales for unsure men: “If a woman really insists, the guy will go.”
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