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‘Fifty Shades Freed’ Heats Up Thursday Box Office With $5.6 Million

Universal’s opening of “Fifty Shades Freed” has launched with $5.6 million at 3,150 North American locations in Thursday night previews.

The number is nearly equal to the trilogy’s sequel, “Fifty Shades Darker, which grossed $5.7 million from Thursday night previews at 3,120 venues a year ago. “Fifty Shades of Grey” took in $8.6 million at 2,830 theaters on its first Thursday night in 2015.

The finale of the erotic trilogy should heat up moviegoing at North American multiplexes this weekend, as “Fifty Shades Freed” is pegged to dominate with about $33 million at more than 3,768 locations.

Sony’s launch of family comedy “Peter Rabbit” should wind up at about $16 million at 3,725 sites, while 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.”

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 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.

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.

“The post-Super Bowl weekend will begin a welcome turnaround in box office fortunes after a few slow weeks that have left the industry running slightly behind last year at this point,” Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with comScore, said. “Three notable new wide release openers will serve as a strong lead in to next week’s highly anticipated debut of ‘Black Panther,’ a film that could set a new February opening record for what promises to be a solid month overall in theaters.”

Year-to-date box office is down 1.4% as of Feb. 7 to $1.09 billion, according to comScore. Sony’s “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” has been the biggest contributor, winning all the weekends except for the Jan. 26 -28 frame when “Maze Runner: The Death Cure” took the top spot.

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