Universal's "50 Shades of Grey" is breaking all sorts of records, and it hasn't even opened in theaters yet. The racy, R-rated film, based on the best-selling novel by E.L. James, is on track for a blockbuster Valentine's Day weekend; it could even gross as much as $60 million dollars at the U.S. box office, which would be a new record.
It would also be a huge win for Universal, which spent a reported $40 million to produce the film, and tens of millions of dollars more to promote and release it on over 3,600 screens, with a marketing campaign nearly three years in the making designed to target both women and couples. The film's Facebook page has 8.26 million "likes" and counting. Author E.L. James has 2.1 million Facebook likes.
"Lately movies have been over-performing ('Sponge Bob' and 'American Sniper' are good examples) so record numbers would not be a shock for the film," said Rentrak Senior Media Analyst Paul Dergarabedian. Over a week before the film opened, it was Fandango's fastest-selling R-rated title in the company's 15-year history. And the film represented a full 60 percent of Fandango's ticket sales—nine days before it opens in theaters.
But the film is proving to be a phenomenon far larger than any general box office trend. There are hundreds of sold-out screenings, prompting the addition of hundreds of new showings. And Imax just came on board, announcing the large screen theaters will release the film on 75 screens this weekend. Perhaps most surprising are the stats on where demand is the strongest: Fandango reports that the top ten states with much larger-than-expected pre-sales are all in the South and Midwest, regions which generally refuse to book racy NC-17 films.