“Fifty Shades of Grey” is set to tie up, gag and whip all previous box-office records for Presidents Day weekend.
In its first three days of domestic release, the raunchy SM flick racked up an estimated $81.7 million from 3,646 theaters, distributor Universal Pictures said on Sunday.
In addition to flogging Valentine’s and Presidents Day weekend records, “Fifty Shades” has also become the second-highest February debut ever, behind Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ,” which raked in $83.9 million in its 2004 debut.
The audience was 68 percent female, Universal said, as wives and girlfriends dragged reluctant husbands and boyfriends to the movie, which attracted lukewarm-to-savage reviews from critics.
“Those are summer-style blockbuster numbers in February,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for box-office tracker Rentrak, which predicts that “Fifty Shades” will gross $90.7 million by Monday.
“Controversy, or at least the conversation that’s created by ‘Fifty Shades of Grey,’ suddenly infuses this movie into the mainstream conversation,” he added.
“They had to very carefully create a movie that was edgy, push the envelope, but without going too far to make it socially unacceptable.”
“Fifty Shades,” which cost a modest $40 million to produce, meanwhile, earned an estimated $158 million overseas from 9,637 locations in 58 territories.
The movie stars Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele, an English lit major in college who is lured to the penthouse of bondage enthusiast and billionaire businessman Christian Grey, played by Jamie Dornan.