Around this time of the season, when love is in the air, there’s often a floral scent that wafts about. This year, with lust in the air however, there’s a distinctly leathery smell about town. That may be because Universal’s adaptation of the kinky best-selling book, “Fifty Shades of Grey,” finally gets busy in theaters after months and months of hype.
Presales have been massive, and not just across the United States, but overseas, where this hot-button flick might just combust. That’s news that must be titillating for Universal who spend a tidy sum of $40M on the R-rated S&M romp, and are on pace to easily eclipse that mark by Monday, but more likely by Saturday. Estimates now have it popping off with $75M+ and upwards of $100M over the long President’s Day holiday.
What better way to spend Valentine’s Day than with a little steamy bondage, right? On one hand, it’s the perfect date movie—guys get some ideas, girls live out some fantasies…and then you go home and recreate the magic (after a quick trip to the hardware store.) But, it’s also the perfect anti-Valentine’s Day film, as girls are getting together in groups like they did for “Sex and the City,” which opened with $57M.
Director Sam Taylor-Johnson, who made her directing debut with the underrated and underappreciated early Beatles biopic, “Nowhere Boy,” is getting hit and miss reviews, but that won’t stop this runaway meat train. In fact, Taylor-Johnson says there are plans to strap on at least two more sequels. With the amount of money this film will be making, that should come as no surprise.
For the leading actors, Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan, a worldwide hit should lead to instant fame and fat paychecks when the saga continues, however remember what happened with Elizabeth Berkley and Kyle MacLachlan after “Showgirls”—that’s right, nothing. And what about Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins of “The Blue Lagoon?” I mean, they had fine careers (especially Atkins in “The Pirate Movie”) but nothing that was close to the heat of their love-making movie magic.
For those keeping track, when adjusted for inflation, 1980’s “The Blue Lagoon” grossed $181M, while “9 ½ Weeks” and “Showgirls” bombed big-time. Sex sells, but only in the right package…and with the phenomenon that the books launched, “Fifty Shades of Grey” may finally be that film that truly breaks down sex barriers on the big screen…or at the very least it’ll get that “Deep Throat” remake greenlit.
Also on the V-Day docket is Fox’s R-rated action flick, “Kingsman: The Secret Service.” Directed by Matthew Vaughn (“Kick-Ass,” “X-Men: First Class”) and cleverly described as “Tarantino meets James Bond” this should do some decent business, as it’s the only other film in wide release this weekend. Plus, Vaughn doesn’t make bad films.
Trouble is, this one may be just a tad too British for American audiences. Having the increasingly weird Samuel L. Jackson show up is a good start, but outside teens and young adults, this may not find a crossover audience. In 3,100+ theaters expect around $30M over the four-day stretch.
WEEKEND ESTIMATES (3-Day)
- Fifty Shades of Grey – $75M
- SpongeBob: Sponge Out of Water – $32M
- Kingman: The Secret Service – $25M
- American Sniper – $19M
- Jupiter Ascending – $10
SPIDER-MAN RETURNS FROM THE COBWEBS
Spider-sense tingling…all over! Disney has done it again. As if they haven’t had enough success with the Marvel Universe, they sealed a deal with Sony this week that nets them partial rights to what is perhaps the most famous superhero in the Marvel Rolodex, Spider-man.
So what does this mean? Well, it’s basically a win-win for both studios and especially for fans with Marvel/Disney gaining access to Spidey for not just future Avengers films, but also spin-offs like Captain America and others.
Meanwhile, Sony will have help from Marvel’s brain trust rebooting the franchise (yet again), this time apparently going even younger and setting it in High School. Laters, Andrew Garfield. I’m okay with this, but God forbid we get yet another origin story! “Untitled Spider-Man” is on the release calendar for July 28, 2017.
Sony desperately needed this move. With all the hacking turmoil and on the heels of co-chairman Amy Pascal being fired from her post, this is the best decision the beleaguered studio has made. Teaming up with Marvel will ultimately prove a spectacular move, as there is also crossover potential the opposite direction, something Spider-Man desperately needs. Now let’s bring on Kraven the Hunter!!
CHOICE CUT OF THE WEEK – Universal’s “Straight Outta Compton” (Aug. 14, 2015)
As a white teenager in Northern Idaho when N.W.A. came onto the scene, I instantly could relate to the plight of the black man in Compton. Ok, not at all, actually, but their music and beats made everyone turn their heads and crank up their ghettoblasters. N.W.A.’s music signaled a cultural revolution…and we all felt the treble. N.W.A. shook up the world, and a big screen bio is long overdue. Looks solid.
PRIME CUT OF THE WEEK – Sony’s “Aloha” (May 29, 2015)
Cameron Crowe is a master of wordplay and complex emotions that often perfectly capture the slice of life of an entire generation. He’s like John Hughes in that way, except that he’s made relevant films throughout a career that spans decades.
While his last two films, “We Bought a Zoo” and “Elizabethtown” weren’t up to his usual quality, “Aloha” looks like a classic return to form. Insane cast.
CLASSIC CUT OF THE WEEK – Columbia Pictures’ “The Blue Lagoon”
The greatest thing about this trailer is how sensual, yet tender, the narrator’s voice is. No doubt he was getting hot and sensuous just watching the footage. You just can’t fake emotion like that.
Jeff Bock, NewsWhistle’s movie editor, is the senior box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations in Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at Jeff@NewsWhistle.com.
“50 Shades of Grey” Image Courtesy of Universal Pictures and ImpAwards.com