“Fifty Shades of Grey” is not only heating up screens across North America, but lighting a fire under its competition as well.
The Universal drama opened to $30.2 million on Friday on its way to a projected, record-breaking $76 million long weekend. If estimates hold, the R-rated pic will easily dominate the previous Presidents Day weekend record holder, “Valentine’s Day,” for the best showing ever for the holiday. Garry Marshall’s “Valentine’s Day” opened to $63.1 million in 2010.
The erotic romance could also break the current Valentine’s Day box office record, which was also set, appropriately enough, by “Valentine’s Day” with $23.4 million.
Early Friday estimates had pegged the film for an $85 million long weekend debut after a record-setting Thursday-night launch of $8.6 million — overtaking “Fast & Furious 6″ as Universal’s highest-grossing latenight preview of all time.
The film, which began rolling out internationally on Wednesday, opened at No. 1 in 56 of its 57 territories, including the U.K., France, Germany and Russia. It grossed $38 million on Friday for an early total of $66 million. The film is on track for an international weekend take of $158.3 million, which would make it Universal’s second highest opening weekend of all time, just behind “Fast & Furious 6″ ($160.3 million).
“Fifty Shades of Grey,” based on E.L. James’ bestselling romance novel, carries a fairly modest $40 million production budget. The film is directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson and stars Jamie Dornan as an enigmatic bondage-loving billionaire who falls for Dakota Johnson’s sexually inexperienced college student.
The holiday weekend’s other new entry, “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” is also doing strong business.
The actioner was runner-up with $10.5 million on Friday. “Kingsman,” starring Colin Firth and Samuel L. Jackson, eyes $34.5 million by Sunday and an estimated $40 million this four-day weekend.
The spy thriller cost approximately $80 million to produce and has already launched in several foreign markets, where it had grossed almost $20 million by Thursday.
Last weekend’s victor, “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water,” was third on Friday. The toon grossed an estimated $6.5 million as it approaches a $31 million weekend. “SpongeBob,” like “Kingsman,” is projected to take just under $40 million.
Two other holdovers — both Warner Bros. pics — rounded out the top five.
“American Sniper” continued its hot streak, taking in $3.4 million on Friday. The Iraq War drama from Clint Eastwood could earn just under $18 million this weekend and $20.5 million by Monday, reaching another milestone by crossing the $300 million domestic mark.
Meanwhile, “Jupiter Ascending” grossed $3.2 million this Friday en route to an estimated $7.3 million weekend — a 60% drop. The fantasy pic, directed by Andy and Lana Wachowski, could make $8.5 million by Presidents Day.