Universal's Fifty Shades of Grey enjoyed a massive bump on Valentine's Day, putting the female-fueled film adaptation of EL James' S&M-laced romance novel on course to earn a mighty $90.7 million over the long Presidents Day holiday for a worldwide debut of $248.7 million.
That includes $81.7 million for the three-day weekend, the No. 2 February opening after Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ ($83.8 million), and the biggest Valentine's Day/Presidents Day gross of all time, not accounting for inflation. It is also the No. 4 opening for an R-rated title. The record-holder is the R-rated The Matrix Reloaded, which posted a three-day debut of $91.8 million in 2003.
The numbers for Fifty Shades could shift when final four-day estimates are released Monday morning. Perhaps most surprising is that males made up 32 percent of Saturday's audience.
Overseas, the results are even more astounding for Universal. Fifty Shades opened to a record-breaking $158 million from 58 markets — the highest opening ever for an R-rated film and the second best for Universal after Fast & Furious 6 ($160.3 million). Fifty Shades' global launch of $248.7 million is a number usually reserved for all-audience tentpoles.
Domestically, Fifty Shades easily bested the $63.1 million opening of Valentine's Day in 2010 to tie up the best showing of all time for the holiday. Fifty Shades is playing in 3,646 locations, the widest release to date for an R-rated film. Directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, the movie Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan.
"This was unchartered territory," said Universal domestic distribution chief Nicholas Carpou. "We created a perfect storm for Valentine's Day weekend, and made a movie that was accessible to the widest audinece. And the marketing campaign really empowered people to see the film."
Females made up the vast majority of the audience overall (including 78 percent on Friday), but couples turned out in force on Saturday to celebrate Valentine's Day. The movie earned $36.7 million for the day — a hefty 21 percent day-over-day spike despite a middling C+ CinemaScore (box office pundits aren't surprised by the CinemaScore, considering the subject matter).
To say the movie's global launch is a blockbuster start for Universal is an understatement, taking into account that it cost a relatively modest $40 million to make. James' trilogy is a global phenomenon, and the film quickly followed suit, delivering a new franchise for the studio. The Fifty Shades books have been translated into 52 languages and sold more than 100 million copies worldwide.
The weekend's second new release, Matthew Vaughn's Kingsman: The Secret Service, is no slouch either. The Fox film grossed an estimated $35.6 million for the three days for a $41 million debut over the long holiday, well ahead of expectations.
From Fox, Kingsman succeeded in serving as counterprogramming by providing an alternative for males, as well as females not so interested in Fifty Shades. It likewise saw a big bump on Valentine's Day, soaring 47 percent from Friday to Saturday. The movie, described as James Bond-meets-Kick-Ass, stars Colin Firth and Samuel L. Jackson. The $80 million-plus film has received far better reviews than Fifty Shades, as well as a stronger exits and a B+ CinemaScore.
"I think we surfed the tsunami wave that's known as Fifty Shades of Grey quite well," said Chris Aronson, chief of domestic distribution for Fox. "We have an incredibly entertainment, cheeky, funny, subversive movie that is fresh and original."
In the film, Firth plays a quirky spy training his young, sometimes stubborn, recruits. Kingsman is playing in 3,204 locations.
Internationally, Kingsman scored another $23.1 million for a foreign total of $43.8 million.
Elsewhere at the North American box office, Clint Eastwood's American Sniper is jumping the $300 million mark, while The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water will finish its second weekend with $100.7 million in ticket sales.