“Fifty Shades of Grey” didn’t show much endurance in its second weekend of release, with ticket sales for the erotic drama plunging a staggering 73% from its record-breaking $85.1 million debut.
The adaptation of E.L. James’ kinky bestseller about a billionaire and the college student he introduces to the world of BDSM nabbed first place at the box office, but its $23.2 million in receipts represented a steep fall from its opening. Its hot-and-fast performance is like those of recent female-driven hits such as “The Fault in Our Stars,” “Sex and the City” and “Magic Mike,” all of which started strong before nosediving in their sophomore weekends.
“This was a movie that was a cultural event, and in order to be a part of it, the core constituency wanted to get out there and see it right away so they could talk about it,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Rentrak. “The interest level was always going to be geared towards the opening weekend.”
It didn’t help that the word of mouth on the movie was of the cautionary variety. “Fifty Shades of Grey” earned an uninspired C+ CinemaScore from audiences amidst gripes that it deviated too far from the source material (if only they’d kept the tampon scene!). The film has made $130.1 million thus far, but could struggle to hit $200 million domestically given its precipitous dropoff.
Despite the limp second weekend, the Universal Pictures and Focus Features release cost an economical $40 million to produce, so it still stands to be a very profitable endeavor even when the tens of millions of dollars that the studios spent marketing and distributing the film are taken into account.
Globally, the film fared better. “Fifty Shades of Grey” was the number one picture at the international box office for the second week in a row, pulling in an estimated $68.1 million at 10,794 dates in 58 territories. That represented a 56% fall from its debut, and pushes the worldwide haul to $410.6 million.
“The drop is almost meaningless because the film has made 10 times its budget worldwide in 10 days,” said Dergarabedian. “It’s one of those movies that’s going to be so profitable that Universal will be happy to accept that second weekend drop.”
But back to Stateside matters. Another holdover, Fox’s “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” secured second place on the U.S. charts with $17.5 million. The action adventure about a group of posh spies has earned $67.1 million after two weeks.
“The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water” continued to take advantage of a lack of family-oriented programming in the marketplace, claiming third place with $15.5 million at the box office. The Paramount Pictures release has earned $125.2 million after three weeks in theaters.
That left a trio of new releases fighting over the scraps. It was particularly bad news for “Hot Tub Time Machine 2,” which received an icy reception when it debuted on 2,880 screens. The raunchy comedy earned an estimated $5.8 million, roughly half of the $13 million it was expected to generate. The film brings back original stars Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson and Clark Duke, along with franchise newcomer Adam Scott.
The good news for Paramount and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the studios behind the movie, is that the time-traveling comedy cost only $14 million to make. That said, don’t hold your breath for a third installment.
“We’re disappointed,” said Megan Colligan, president of worldwide distribution and marketing at Paramount Pictures. “The movie is so funny and the guys worked hard. It’s never fun to miss.”
Colligan thinks that the icy and snowy weather striking the East Coast may have depressed ticket sales.
“The movie benefits from walk up business and the country is experiencing such an insane frost,” she said. “It’s dangerous and unpleasant to go out, so it becomes easy for a lot of people to convince themselves to stay inside.”
Among the fresh faces at the multiplex, audiences seemed most taken with racing drama “McFarland, USA,” which was able to take fourth place with an $11.3 million finish. The inspirational sports drama stars Kevin Costner as a high school coach who discovers that a group of runners from a predominantly Latino high school are major talents. It’s based on the true story of a 1987 cross-country team, something that figured prominently into the picture’s marketing.
“The true story of it all is why folks most want to see the movie,” said Dave Hollis, Disney’s distribution chief.
“McFarland, USA” cost $25 million to produce. The film had an opening weekend crowd that was split evenly between men and women, with ticket buyers over the age of 50 making up the largest percentage of seat-holders. Hollis thinks the demographic breakdown will age downward in the coming weeks as “McFarland, USA” remains one of the only PG-rated options in the marketplace. The picture played particularly well in the Southwest and in central California, areas with large populations of Hispanics, but Disney thinks the picture will resonate more broadly.
“There’s a universalism in the themes here and in the story of people having a challenge they can overcome,” said Hollis.
“The Duff” also got off to a good start, with the well-reviewed high school romantic comedy picking up $11 million while debuting on 2,575 screens. CBS Films produced the movie for $8.5 million and is releasing it through a distribution partnership with Lionsgate. The audience for the film was 75% female, 68% under the age of 25 and 48% under 18 years old.
Social media was a big part of the film’s outreach. The marketing campaign saw the cast on platforms such as Snapchat and Facebook that are popular with younger moviegoers, and the film partnered with Tumblr for a special word-of-mouth screening for influencers on that service.
“We knew exactly who the audience was,” said David Spitz, executive vice president of distribution at Lionsgate. “We think we’ve built an effective and efficient campaign, and with a clear runway it will continue to perform well at the box office.”
Among Oscar contenders, “American Sniper” continued to be the big dog in the pack, adding $9.6 million to its $319.6 million haul. This year’s crop of best picture candidates is the lowest grossing since 2011, but “American Sniper” is the highest-grossing nominee since 2010’s “Toy Story 3.”
The overall box office topped out at $117 million, a 4.6% jump from the year-ago period, when “The Lego Movie” squared off against “3 Days to Kill” and “Pompeii.” Year-to-date, ticket sales are up more than 10%.