“Fifty Shades of Grey” Morning After: Opening Weekend Box Office

'Fifty Shades of Grey' still (Nova FM)

‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ still (Nova FM)

Last week, we examined different aspects of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” in preparation for the then-upcoming movie. 

Who saw “Fifty Shades of Grey” this weekend? I did, twice (and I own my choices).

The collective ticket-buying (and swooning over Jamie Dornan) is estimated to make $81M+ its three-day opening weekend (comprising Friday, Saturday and Sunday). The movie opened at 3.6K+ theaters (“the widest release to date for an R-rated film,” as “The Hollywood Reporter” notes), and is projected to make $90M+ over the four-day holiday weekend (which includes Monday). If it hits this number, “Fifty Shades of Grey” will hold the honor of having the biggest President’s Day opening weekend in history.

Internationally, the movie has opened to #1 in 56 markets to nab $158M+, doing very well in Europe and Latin America. “Deadline Hollywood” reports that five countries have yet to release it, including Korea and the United Arab Emirates, through Mar. 5. China will release the movie next weekend. So far, the global total numbers $248M+.

Needless to say, “Fifty Shades” is doing gangbusters business. It’s safe to say the movie will turn a profit: it was only made for $40M.

The movie has also hit another milestone: it’s the biggest opening for a female director. Catherine Hardwicke previously held this record for directing the first “Twilight” film, released in November 2008. (Incidentally, the “Fifty Shades” trilogy started out as “Twilight” fan fiction.) That movie took in $69M+ its first weekend.

It’s unclear whether director Sam Taylor-Johnson would try to repeat that feat with the next two movies in the “Fifty Shades” trilogy. So far, there have not been any discussions of her returning, as she only signed a deal to make one movie.

Hopefully, this stunning showing will open the door for more female-led erotic films, both in front of and behind the camera.

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Thursday Trends: Female Directors and Erotic Mainstream Films

'Sleeping Beauty' film still (Australian Broadcasting Media)

‘Sleeping Beauty’ film still (Australian Broadcasting Media)

This week, we’re examining different aspects of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” in preparation for the upcoming movie. 

As we mentioned earlier this week, the upcoming “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie bears an interesting distinction: Women are in prominent positions behind the camera. Aside from author E.L. James, Sam Taylor-Johnson is directing off a script written by Kelly Marcel. In an industry where female directors comprise only 29%+ of total directors, this trifecta will no doubt prove a competitive advantage in adapting a property beloved by so many women worldwide.

It might usher in a new film concept as well: the mainstream erotic, yet female-friendly, film. So far, the closest we’ve come has been with “Sleeping Beauty,” released in 2011. Debuting during the Cannes Film Festival, Australian director/screenwriter Julia Leigh’s film focuses on university student Lucy (Emily Browning) who moonlights as an erotic freelancer. Lucy’s job is to sleep peacefully in a large bed, while paying male customers sleep next to her, following the establishment’s “no penetration” rule. The film was Leigh’s directorial debut.

In France, director Catherine Breillat is known for depicting realistic sexuality and intimacy onscreen, even casting Italian porn star Rocco Siffredi in two films. Her work tends to examine facets of female sexuality. Breillat’s films “Virgin” and “Fat Girl” specifically focus on budding female teenage sexuality. Incidentally, she also has a film titled “The Sleeping Beauty.”

It’s interesting to note that most of the erotic films that are (relatively) mainstream come from overseas, where sexual mores are a bit looser. And this holds true for the “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie: Though produced by three American production companies and distributed by Universal (all American companies), James, Taylor-Johnson, and Marcel are all British.

The closest mainstream American BDSM film we’ve had with a female presence has been “Secretary,” released in 2002. Written by Erin Cressida Wilson from a short story by Mary Gaitskill, the script won Wilson a Best First Screenplay award at the 2003 Independent Spirit Awards. But the prominent women in behind-the-camera positions stop there.

Hopefully, “Fifty Shades of Grey” will open more doors for female directors and screenwriters, particularly for films of an erotic nature. But with American’s puritanical take on sex, progress might happen at a snail’s pace.

“Fifty Shades of Grey:” SWOT Analysis

'Fifty Shades of Grey' still (E!Online)

‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ still (E!Online)

This week, we’re examining different aspects of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” in preparation for the upcoming movie, opening on Feb. 13th. 

We’re only a few days away from the “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie opening, so let’s look at the movie via a SWOT analysis. Used in strategic planning in business, SWOT analysis evaluates nuances of a project (specifically, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) and how they play into how a team approaches the project.

I wanted to see what the film could accomplish, especially aspects that the book couldn’t, and how sex education could play a role.

 

Strengths:

By now, “Fifty Shades of Grey” is a household name. Even if you haven’t read it, you’ve heard about it to the point that you could tell the storyline in a sentence or two. (Bland virgin meets billionaire into BDSM. Lots of sex and bad writing ensue.)

It has the power of name-brand recognition behind it. Since it’s female-driven (and written) erotica, women will more likely go see the movie more than men.

Another point in the movie’s favor is that women are gracing the director’s and screenwriter’s chairs: This will be Sam Taylor-Johnson’s (formerly Taylor-Wood) second feature, after her directorial debut “Nowhere Boy” was released in 2009. Screenwriter Kelly Marcel has previously written “Saving Mr. Banks” and the “Terra Nova” pilot.

But will the movie do what the book didn’t: educate movie-goers on how BDSM really works?

 

Weaknesses:

The book took some serious liberties with portraying BDSM and its practitioners (represented as a monolith by Christian Grey). Chief concern among them was depicting BDSM enthusiasts as victims of sexual trauma, and that they cannot have “normal” relationships. Audiences might assume that the movie will also falter in addressing these issues.

There’s also the point of the writing. The terrible, terrible writing. Marcel might be able to only do so much in her adaptation, and that may very well show onscreen.

 

Opportunities:

The movie has the potential to do some good. It could clear up the aforementioned misconceptions about The Lifestyle that the book puts forth, and therefore could be a learning opportunity for audiences who previously had no experience and/or knowledge of BDSM. But, again, the operative word is “could.”

The upcoming movie also has the opportunity to be a mainstream erotic film with a strong female presence behind the camera (noted above in “Strengths”). This could point to a more sensitive handling of the subject matter. Considering the book has been derided for being “mommy porn,” the movie could potentially aid in leveling the playing field in depicting womens’ sexuality onscreen. If it goes well, it could open the door for more erotic films with a more-female friendly bent, as well as more mainstream erotic films.

 

Threats:

As mentioned above in “Weaknesses,” the books have already given readers an inaccurate impression of BDSM’s nuances and practitioners. The movie could continue to give audiences the wrong information, and come off as a Did Not Do The Research cautionary tale as much as the book has.

Given the source material, this movie could be really, laughably bad. And that would be really troubling. This would be harmful to the status of mainstream erotic films, particularly those covering BDSM. The last one was “Secretary” in 2002. It’s bad enough that we’ve had to wait 13 years for another one. But if “Fifty Shades of Grey” doesn’t deliver, we may be looking at another 13 years or even longer.

There’s also the issue that there are women in prominent behind-the-camera positions on this movie (see “Strengths”). Much has been made recently about the dearth of women directors, and behind the camera in general. But if the movie fails, then there might be less of a chance for women behind the camera.

 

Heavy stuff here. Let’s hope “Fifty Shades of Grey” doesn’t screw it up, not just for itself (and us), but for the future of women in film and mainstream erotic movies.