Fifty Shades of Grey may be a laughingstock to critics and much of the general public alike, but the film adaptation of E.L. James' erotic best-seller has grossed over half a billion in theaters worldwide on a $40 million budget. Hence, the sequel Fifty Shades Darker seems bound to make it way to the big screen, with the series' leads Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan looking to get a pay increase for their work on the next Fifty Shades installment.
However, because development on Fifty Shades Darker isn't already fully underway (more on that later), the Fifty Shades franchise won't be able to follow in the footsteps of many recent novel-based properties - including its very inspiration, Twilight - and have a new installment out in theaters on an annual basis. Instead, production on the Fifty Shades sequel probably won't even be getting started until early next year.
THR reports that Johnson and Dornan have been told by Universal representatives to anticipate Fifty Shades Darker starting production in the first quarter of 2016, making a Valentine's Day 2017 weekend release a strong possibility. In the meantime, the studio needs to work things out with James, seeing as the latter wants to script the Fifty Shades sequel - something her deal with Universal makes a strong possibility, given the amount of creative control it allows James to exercise on the Fifty Shades movie brand (passing on the obvious pun here...).
Neither Fifty Shades of Grey director Sam Taylor-Johnson nor screenwriter Kelly Marcel is expected to work on the Fifty Shades Darker film adaptation, though both Johnson and Dornan are lined up to reprise as Anastasia Steele and her twisted billionaire lover, Christian Grey. Both stars ought to get a higher salary on the sequel than they did for the first installment ($250K, with no backend compensation) but aren't likely to get as big a pay hike on the sequel as, say, Jennifer Lawrence did for the Hunger Games sequel, Catching Fire.
Interestingly, Taylor-Johnson's Fifty Shades of Grey also resembles director Catherine Hardwicke's Twilight (2008) on a pure creative level. Both films have a distinct auteur touch to them... yet are clearly held back by having to adhere to their dubious source material (especially so with Fifty Shades). The second Twilight movie, New Moon, felt more like a sheer product by comparison, and it's feasible that Fifty Shades Darker will turnout the same way compared to its predecessor.
That's something of a shame too; because, as mockable as its source novel is, Fifty Shades of Grey shows glimmers of being an insightful and self-aware kinky romance story. However, the way things are going, the Fifty Shades franchise seems doomed to never amount to more than the unintentional self-parody so many/most people expected from the very get-go - if also an easy source of income for Universal, at the same time.
Fifty Shades of Grey will release on DVD/Blu-ray later this year. We'll keep you posted on development for Fifty Shades Darker.