THR - Universal's Fifty Shades of Grey continued to exceed expectations on Sunday for a potent $94.4 million domestic debut over the long Presidents Day weekend, shattering several records and putting the film's global total at a massive $266.4 million through Monday.
That includes $85 million for the three-day weekend, eclipsing the $83.8 million launch of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ ($83.8 million) to mark the biggest opening ever for the month of February, not accounting for inflation. It's also the biggest Valentine's Day/Presidents Day gross of all time, and the No. 3 opening for an R-rated title. The record-holder is the R-rated The Matrix Reloaded, which posted a three-day debut of $91.8 million in 2003.
On Sunday, the film adaptation of EL James S&M-laced romance novel was projected to earn $81.7 million for the three days and $90.7 million for the four days, but Universal revised those numbers upwards, thanks to stronger than expected traffic on Sunday.
Overseas, the results were even more astounding. Fifty Shades opened to a record-breaking $158 million from 58 markets — the highest opening ever for an R-rated film and the second best for Universal after Fast & Furious 6 ($160.3 million). On Monday, the film earned another $14 million for a foreign total of $172 million.
Domestically, Fifty Shades easily bested the $63.1 million opening of Valentine's Day in 2010 to tie up the best showing of all time for the holiday. Fifty Shades is playing in 3,646 locations, the widest release to date for an R-rated film. Directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, the movie Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan.
"This was unchartered territory," said Universal domestic distribution chief Nicholas Carpou. "We created a perfect storm for Valentine's Day weekend, and made a movie that was accessible to the widest audience. And the marketing campaign really empowered people to see the film."
Females made up the vast majority of the audience overall, including 78 percent on Friday, but couples turned out in force on Saturday to celebrate Valentine's Day (males made up 32 percent of Saturday's ticket buyers). The movie earned $36.7 million for the day — a hefty 21 percent day-over-day spike despite a middling C+ CinemaScore (box office pundits aren't surprised by the CinemaScore, considering the subject matter).
To say the movie's global launch is a blockbuster start for Universal is an understatement, taking into account that it cost a relatively modest $40 million to make. James' trilogy is a global phenomenon, and the film quickly followed suit, delivering a new franchise for the studio. The Fifty Shades books have been translated into 52 languages and sold more than 100 million copies worldwide.