Weekend Box Office: 'Fifty Shades Freed' Climaxes With $137M Global Debut
'Peter Rabbit' opens to $25 million in the U.S., while Clint Eastwood's 'The 15:17 to Paris' debuts to $12.6 million after getting derailed by many critics.
Universal's Fifty Shades Freed seduced audiences in its worldwide debut, grossing $136.9 million and propelling the female-fueled franchise past the $1 billion mark in global box-office ticket sales to become one of the most profitable series in the studio's history.
In North America, Fifty Shades Freed easily dominated the weekend, coming in No. 1 with $38.8 million, the top opening of the year to date. There were no signs that the #MeToo movement slowed down the threequel, which came in less than 17 percent behind Fifty Shades Darker, a small drop for a third installment, not to mention a third title in a franchise based on a book series that's faded from view.
Overseas, Fifty Shades Freed sizzled with $98.1 million from 57 markets, including a first-place finish in 54 of those. Germany led all countries with $10.8 million, followed by the U.K./Ireland ($8.8 million), France ($8.7 million) and Italy ($7.2 million).
The first film in the series, Fifty Shades of Grey, opened to $85.1 million domestically and $242.4 million worldwide over Valentine's Day weekend in February 2015. At that time, E.L. James' BDSM-laced books were a global sensation. Two years later, the follow-up Fifty Shades Darker opened to $46.6 million domestically and $144.4 million globally. The franchise has been enormously profitable for Universal, considering the trio of titles cost a combined $150 million to produce before marketing. The studio won't discuss financials, but insiders confirm the franchise is one of the studio's most lucrative properties.
Females made up roughly 75 percent of the North American audience for Fifty Shades Freed. In the pic, Dakota Johnson once again stars as Anastasia Steele, while Jamie Dornan reprises the role of Christian Grey.
"We take great pride providing films for distinct audiences," says Jim Orr, Universal's president of domestic distribution. "We played evenly across America and over-indexed in a lot of Midwestern markets where you wouldn't think an R-rated, adult title would play."
The weekend's other two nationwide entries were the family film Peter Rabbit and the terrorist drama The 15:17 to Paris.
A CGI/live-action hybrid, Sony's Peter Rabbit came in No. 2 with an estimated $25 million from 3,725 theaters. The pic, from Sony Pictures Animation, earned an A- CinemaScore from moviegoers.
James Corden voices the iconic rabbit created by author Beatrix Potter. The voice cast also includes Domhnall Gleeson and Rose Byrne. The movie is the first title from former Sony exec Doug Belgrad's new production company, 2.0.
In the weeks to come, Peter Rabbit hopes to entice tots too small to turn out for Black Panther — set to open in theaters Friday, the beginning of the long President's Day weekend — and other fare.
Prolific director Clint Eastwood returned to the marquee with 15:17 to Paris, a recounting of the true story of three Americans who helped thwart an attack on a French train in 2016. Village Roadshow Entertainment and Warner Bros. partnered on the film, which took in a muted $12.6 million from 3,042 theaters after getting derailed by many critics.
The 15:17 to Paris, which placed third, currently has a 20 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes, the worst of Eastwood's career. Audiences weren't so kind, either, giving the movie a B-. The movie skewed notably older: On Friday, 57 percent of ticket buyers were over the age of 50 and just 14 percent were 25 and younger. The film played best in markets with military bases.
In an unusual turn, Eastwood cast the real-life heroes — Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler — as his film's stars.
"Clint had a vision. He wanted to be challenged and tell the story in his own way," says Warner Bros. president of domestic distribution Jeff Goldstein. "This was a big experiment and leap of faith [to] take actors who had never acted. Warners is here to help him execute his vision."
The 15:17 to Paris launched day-and-date in 23 foreign markets, grossing $5.3 million for a global bow of $17.9 million. Fifty Shades Freed no doubt made life difficult for the movie in Europe, a usual stronghold for Eastwood's films.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and The Greatest Showman rounded out the top five with an estimated $10 million and $6.4 million, respectively.
Jumanji has now earned $881.8 million globally, becoming the No. 3 Sony title of all time behind Spectre and Spider-Man: Homecoming, not accounting for inflation.