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‘Fifty Shades Freed’ to Heat Up Box Office With $33 Million Launch

Universal’s opening of “Fifty Shades Freed” should heat up moviegoing at North American multiplexes this weekend, as the finale of the erotic trilogy is pegged to dominate with about $33 million at more than 3,700 locations.

Sony’s launch of family comedy “Peter Rabbit” should wind up at about $16 million at 3,700 locations and Warner Bros.’ debut of Clint Eastwood’s thriller15:17 to Paris” is likely to take in about $12 million at 3,042 venues.

The weekend should see a significant increase in moviegoing in the wake of a slow Super Bowl session with $94 million overall, according to comScore, as studios remained reluctant to open major titles during the frenzy surrounding the pro football championship. Last year’s post Super Bowl weekend saw business jump 90% to $180 million, mostly thanks to “The Lego Batman Movie” and by 150% to $239 million in 2016 with the launch of “Deadpool.”

“The post-Super Bowl weekend frame traditionally gets things on the right track for the industry as new titles breathe life into the typically decelerated movie marketplace, and this year will be no exception with ‘Fifty Shades Freed,’ ‘15:17 To Paris’ and ‘Peter Rabbit’ all set to get people hopping off their couches and back into the movie theater,” Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with comScore, said.

Universal anticipates that “Fifty Shades Freed” will have strong midweek business next week with Valentine’s Day falling on Wednesday. Moviegoing will receive another major boost over the Presidents Day weekend with Disney-Marvel’s “Black Panther” forecasted to take in as much as $150 million during the Friday-Monday period.

“Fifty Shades Freed” sees Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson return as Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele in the conclusion of the events set in motion in 2015’s “Fifty Shades of Grey” and 2017’s “Fifty Shades Darker.” Together, the first two films of the trilogy have grossed nearly $950 million worldwide. Universal has been promoting “Fifty Shades Freed” in recent months with the single-entendre tagline, “Don’t Miss the Climax.”

Marcia Gay Harden, Eric Johnson, Rita Ora, Luke Grimes, Victor Rasuk, Jennifer Ehle, Eloise Mumford, Max Martini, and Callum Keith Rennie all return. “Fifty Shades Freed” is directed by James Foley from a script by Niall Leonard and once again produced by Michael De Luca, Dana Brunetti and Marcus Viscidi, alongside the book’s author, E. L. James. “Fifty Shades Freed,” which was shot simultaneously with “Fifty Shades Darker,” has a $55 million budget, according to sources.

The “Fifty Shades Freed” campaign kicked off in September with an announcement teaser, generating more than 100 million views.  Two months later, the official trailer debut brought in more than 200 million views. It opens day-and-date with its North American release in 56 international markets, including France, Australia, Brazil, Germany, Mexico, Japan, and the U.K.

The projected “Fifty Shades Freed” launch isn’t as strong as its predecessors “Fifty Shades of Grey,” which opened with $85.2 million in 2015, and “Fifty Shades Darker,” which opened with $46.6 million on the same weekend last year.

Tracking on “Peter Rabbit,” a live-action/CGI animated film from Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Animation, is tricky to predict since children are its core demographic. Warner Bros. saw “Paddington 2” — the last family title to hit the market — take in $11 million on opening weekend  and “Smurfs: The Lost Village” made $13 million in its launch weekend in April.

James Corden is voicing Peter Rabbit in a contemporary comedy highlighted by his feud with Mr. Thomas McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson) as they rival for the affections of the warm-hearted animal lover who lives next door, played by Rose Byrne. Margot Robbie, Elizabeth Debicki, and Daisy Ridley perform the voice roles of the triplets, Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cotton-tail.

“Peter Rabbit” is directed by Will Gluck from a screenplay by Gluck and Rob Lieber, based on the Beatrix Potter stories. The budget is about $50 million. Gluck and Zareh Nalbandian are the producers.

Eastwood’s “15:17 to Paris”  is based on the book “The 15:17 to Paris: The True Story of a Terrorist, a Train, and Three American Heroes” by Jeffrey E. Stern, Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler, and Alek Skarlatos, about the 2015 Thalys train attack. The film stars Stone, Sadler, and Skarlatos as themselves. Judy Greer and Jenna Fischer also star.

Eastwood began shooting the film in July. It’s produced by Warner Bros., Village Roadshow and Eastwood’s Malpaso Productions. Eastwood’s most recent film, “Sully,” was a solid performer with $240 million worldwide, and his “American Sniper” was a major success with $540 million worldwide.

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