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‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is a YouTube Phenomenon, Even if Viewers Won’t Admit It

Fifty Shades of Grey” isn’t just a box office smash, it’s also a social-media phenomenon.

The randy drama dominated YouTube in the lead-up to its release last weekend. Its official trailers and commercials attracted 113 million views, and the total views on all “Fifty Shades of Grey”-related material reached 329 million, according to research from Pixability, an ad buying and video marketing platform.

“It’s the most successful launch from a trailer view perspective in some time,” said Andreas Goeldi, chief technology officer at Pixability.

The firm crunched the numbers and found that the picture generated much more attention on the video site than other recent blockbusters such as “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “The Lego Movie.” “Fifty Shades'” official trailer received 58 million views, while the spots for “Guardians” and “The Lego Movie” attracted 17 million and 27 million views, respectively. To generate buzz around the film, Universal, the studio behind “Fifty Shades,” released a trailer online unusually early, more than 200 days before the movie opened.

It’s not that everyone watching “Fifty Shades” material was under the spell of brooding billionaire Christian Grey or fancied a trip to his red room. Much of the video content related to the film came from parodies, such as Ellen DeGeneres reading from the book of “Fifty Shades” and YouTube star PewDiePie sending up the novel’s fan fiction cottage industry. Many of these parodies were produced while the book was still a bestselling sensation and before the movie hit screens.

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The film’s soundtrack, which features the likes of Sia and Beyonce, also helped drive interest, prompting audiences to check out music videos.

“This has a very broad cultural appeal, and there are a lot of different ways and perspectives that people were engaging with the book and the movie,” said Goeldi.

Because of its scenes of bondage and explicit sex, not everyone wanted to cop to the fact they were busy checking out trailers and commercials. There were 3.7 million shares of “Fifty Shades”-related content on Facebook and Twitter, a fairly low number given all the activity. Moreover, 0.98% of views of the commercials led to sharing on those platforms compared to 1.11% for “Guardians of the Galaxy” and 1.52% for “The Lego Movie.”

“A lot of people were looking at this material, but they didn’t necessarily want to admit it,” said Goeldi. “It deals with controversial topics that people might not be comfortable with, but that also drives interest.”

Controversy helps with ticket sales too. “Fifty Shades of Grey” earned $94.4 million, a record for Presidents’ Day Weekend.

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