Universal’s “Fifty Shades of Grey” has launched with a sizzling $8.6 million at 2,830 North American locations in Thursday night showings that started at 8 p.m.
The tale of romance mixed with BDSM set several records, becoming Universal’s highest-grossing latenight show ever, eclipsing the $6.5 million set by “Fast and Furious 6.”
It’s also the second-highest grossing R-rated latenight opening behind “The Hangover 2” at $10.4 million and the highest latenight showing for a film in February.
Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson star in “Fifty Shades,” which expands to 3,646 theaters in North America over the Presidents Day weekend — which includes Valentine’s Day on Saturday.
Universal has forecasted that “Fifty Shades,” based on E.L. James’ massively popular novel, will wind up with a four-day launch topping $50 million over the four days. But that’s at the low end of expectations, with other analysts and rivals predicting a debut in the $70 million-$80 million range.
“Fifty Shades” carries a relatively moderate $40 million production budget, so Universal will be in the black long before the end of the weekend. It’s is directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson from Kelly Marcel’s script and produced by Michael De Luca and Dana Brunetti alongside E.L. James.
Fandango, which is owned by studio parent NBCUniversal, has reported that “Fifty Shades” is the fastest-selling R-rated film in their 15-year history.
The strong Thursday night performance indicates plenty of pent-up demand for “Fifty Shades,” which Universal and Focus have been marketing assiduously in recent months. It should top the $63 million Presidents Day record set in 2010 by “Valentine’s Day.”
Universal began opening “Fifty Shades” internationally on Wednesday with France setting a studio record with $2.7 million in its first day. It also reported a $2 million first-day launch Thursday in Australia at 277 locations for the biggest February opening day ever in that market.
UPDATE, 7:43 a.m. PST – Fox reports that “Kingsman: The Secret Service” grossed a solid $1.4 million at 2,569 locations in Thursday night shows. The studio has pegged the opening of the R-rated action adventure in the mid to high $20 million range for the three days at 3,204 locations, which will mean it takes in over $30 million for the four days.
“Kingsman,” starring Colin Firth and Samuel L. Jackson, cost approximately $80 million to produce and has already opened in several foreign markets such as the U.K. and Australia, where it’s grossed $17.7 million.