ByJerome Maida, writer at
Jerome Maida

January saw "American Sniper" surpass all expectations and break numerous box-office records in large part by offering something new and tapping into a huge number of people who normally don't trek down to a movie theater to plunk down their hard earned cash to such a degree that it made the film a true event.

This weekend, "Fifty Shades of Grey" should do the same exact thing.

Almost from the beginning, people have underestimated the appeal of this movie.

Which is weird, because, almost from the beginning, signs were popping up everywhere that this was more than your typical "chick flick".

1.) This was - and is - a true phenomenon.

That label was used by some to describe "Sex and the City", when the film based on that extremely popular series hit theaters.

The original "Sex and the City" opened to $57 million on it's way to a $152 million domestic take back in 2008. The 2010 sequel, "ex and the City 2" dipped to a $31 million opening and a $95 million domestic take.

But "Sex and the City" did not have 100 million viewers, "Fifty Shades of Grey" has sold over 100 million copies worldwide, giving it a gargantuan fan base.

2.) The trailer for "Fifty Shades of Grey" has also been viewed an astounding 250 million times! Which means the fan base and anticipation is off the charts.

3.) The book and marketing campaign are making the film seem taboo enough to lure diehards who may fear the picture will water down the source material.

4.) At the same time, the trailer downplays MOST of the S & M stuff and makes the film seem like the emphasis is on romance. Which will reassure those who may think twice over seeing the film with strangers in a theater rather than the privacy of their bedroom.

5.) Within the first week, that tickets for the film went on sale on Fandango, it set record as the fastest-paced seller in that company's history, outpacing not only "Sex and the City 2", and other R-Rated hits like "Gone Girl", and the last two "Hangover" films.

6.) "Fifty Shades of Grey" also had the biggest first week of ticket sales on Fandango for a non-sequel film, surpassing 2012's "The Hunger Games".

7.) The early demand prompted theater owners to book more screens and showtimes weeks in advance.

8.) A very anemic crop of Oscar contenders, no holdovers on par with 2013 - into 2014's "Frozen" and, especially, the historically atrocious showings of films like "Mortdecai", and "Strange Magic" means there are more screens available.

9.) The parent company for "Fifty Shades of Grey" has pulled it's bomb "Blackhat" from theaters. The film debuted on 2,568 screens January 12, lost over 2,00 of them after 2 weeks and was gone completely a week later, on February 5, in large part to make room for "Fifty Shades of Grey".

10.) Adtime for the film's opening weekend in theaters has been sold out for over a month, way quicker than normal.

11.) On Fandango, "Fifty Shades of Grey" pre-sales rank fourth all-time behind "The Twilight Saga: New Moon", "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2" and "The Hunger Games". All of those fiulms had an opening-weekend of at least $142 million. "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" opened to $142 million domestically in November of 2009. "The Hunger Games" opened to $152 million domestically in march of 2012 and "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2" opened to $169 million in July of 2011.

12.) Moving from it's initial date of August 1, 2014 to Valentin's Day Weekend 2015 seems to have been a stroke of genius. Rather than competing with summer fare like "Lucy" and "Guardians of the Galaxy","Fifty Shades of Grey" is now THE film of Valentine's day weekend,

Whe you take all that into account, the modest $50-60 million projections for the weekend seem incredibly low. When you consider that a large segment of it's fan base is older women who don't use fandango there is a very real chance "Fifty Shades of Grey" will reach the $150 million level of "The Hunger Games" - and is a serious threat, to break records for:

Top Domestic Gross On Valentine's Day, currently the $23.4 million earned by the movie "Valentine's Day" on that date in 2010.

Top 4-Day President's Day Weekend, currently held by "Valentine's Day", with $63 million.

Top Opening Weekend In February , currently held by "The Passion of the Christ", with $83.8 million.

Top Opening Weekend For An R-Rated Movie, currently held by "The Matrix Reloaded", with $91.7 million.

What do the rest of you think?


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