‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ box office gold

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‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ box office gold

Erotic drama “Fifty Shades of Grey’’ sizzled in its debut, earning an estimated $81.7 million from 3,646 theaters in its first three days, distributor Universal Pictures said Sunday.

In addition to destroying Valentine’s and Presidents Day weekend records, “Fifty Shades of Grey’’ became the second-highest February debut ever, behind “Passion of the Christ’s’’ $83.9 million opening in 2004.

The chart-topping film cost a modest $40 million to produce. Starring Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey, it could be on track to earn over $90 million for the four-day holiday weekend.

“Our fondest wishes were realized,’’ said Nick Carpou, Universal’s president of domestic distribution. “This is one of those moments where I can speak for the entire studio and say we’re celebrating.’’

Carpou was especially pleased that audiences in large, midsize and small markets turned out to see the film despite severe weather in the Northeast.

According to Universal, North American audiences were 68 percent female.

Internationally, director Sam Taylor-Johnson’s adaptation of British author E. L. James’s book earned an estimated $158 million from 9,637 locations in 58 territories. That’s the second-biggest international opening for Universal, right behind the $160.3 million debut from “Fast & Furious 6,’’ and the highest international opening ever for an R-rated film.

“Those are summer-style blockbuster numbers in February,’’ said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for box office firm Rentrak.

“Controversy, or at least the conversation that’s created by ‘Fifty Shades of Grey,’ suddenly infuses this movie into the mainstream conversation,’’ he added. “They had to very carefully create a movie that was edgy, push the envelope, but without going too far to make it socially acceptable.’’

Director Matthew Vaughn’s “Kingsman: The Secret Service’’ also exceeded expectations, landing in second place with an estimated $35.6 million from 3,204 locations across the three-day period, according to Rentrak.

The R-rated comic book adaptation starring Colin Firth and Samuel L. Jackson cost a reported $81 million to produce and should earn $41 million over the four-day weekend.

Animated children’s film “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water’’ came in third with $30.5 million in its second weekend in theaters, falling only 45 percent. As one of the few family friendly options in theaters, Paramount’s PG-rated movie could pass $100 million by the end of the holiday weekend.

Rounding out the top five were holdovers “American Sniper,’’ with $16.4 million, and “Jupiter Ascending,’’ with $9.4 million.

The Oscar-nominated “American Sniper,’’ now in its fifth weekend of wide release, has earned over $300 million in North America to date. AP
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