The Fifty Shades movie trilogy is primed to pass the $1 billion mark Friday following a big opening day for Fifty Shades Freed Thursday in theaters overseas. Based on author E.L. James' blockbuster book trilogy about the lurid romantic relationship between a literature student (Dakota Johnson) and a tormented billionaire businessman (Jamie Dornan), the Fifty Shades phenomenon carried over to the big screen on Valentine's Day weekend in 2015, when Fifty Shades of Grey logged a massive $85.1 million domestic take in its opening frame. Capturing the curiosity of a readership about a book thought to be unfilmable, Fifty Shades of Grey stormed on to a global take of $571 million, with more than $166 million of that earned stateside and nearly $405 million in foreign territories.
Coming in 15 percent below the Rotten Tomatoes rating of Fifty Shades of Grey (which was "rotten" at 25 percent), the sequel Fifty Shades Darker in 2017 was profitable, yet earned far less than the original film at the global box office, pulling in $381 million ($114.5 million domestically, $266.5 million overseas). Despite the lull in interest in the sequel, the lower numbers obviously didn't give Universal Pictures enough reason to halt production on Fifty Shades Freed, which comes out domestically Friday almost exactly one year later than its predecessor. And thanks to the film's Thursday release overseas, the trilogy is about to cross a milestone once ticket sales are counted for Friday.
According to Deadline, Fifty Shades Freed opening day overseas total was $25 million, including Wednesday night previews in some of the markets. The tally was enough to push the overall global box office for the trilogy at an estimated $991 million, making $1 billion clearly in reach Friday since the film is playing in 57 foreign territories. By the time the weekend wraps up, the film's foreign take is expected to land in the $80 million to $90 million range.
By contrast, the film is expected to earn no more than $40 million domestically, which is less than half of the first film in the trilogy three years ago and the worst opening in the Fifty Shades series. While last year's take for Fifty Shades Darker also opened far weaker than the original film, it still managed to earn $46.6 million in its opening frame. If there's any saving grace, the budgets for each of the films were relatively modest, as Fifty Shades of Grey cost $40 million to make, and Fifty Shades Darker came with a $55 million price tag (a budget spike likely made to keep Johnson and Dornan happy). The budget for Fifty Shades Freed, meanwhile, held steady at $55 million.
In all likelihood, fans are probably just suffering from Fifty Shades fatigue. The first two films earned the dishonorable distinctions of being nominated by the Razzie Awards, and critics continue to put the hurt on the film series with a dismal 12 percent "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Bad reviews notwithstanding, James and Universal will undoubtedly keep laughing all the way to the bank with Fifty Shades Freed, since they were able to keep the cost of making the film as well as its predecessors well in check.
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