Brow Beat

Fifty Shades of Grey Seduces the Box Office, Claims Second-Biggest February Opening Ever

Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan.

Photo by Chuck Zlotnick - © Universal Pictures

Really-bad-but-also-kind-of-good sex thriller Fifty Shades of Grey is wrapping up its opening weekend, and the box office numbers are historic: $81.7 million over three days, enough for the biggest Presidents Day weekend ever. That’s also enough for the second-biggest February opening ever, after The Passion of the Christs $83 million debut.

The more interesting numbers, though, concern the film’s being conceived, written, and directed by women. Grey’s opening weekend take was the largest in history for a movie directed by a woman, beating out Catherine Hardwicke’s Twilight—an ironic victory, given how author E.L. James began writing the Fifty Shades series as Twilight fan fiction. The film’s success should obliterate vacuous industry notions that female-centric films can’t be blockbusters, or that studios need to pander to male ticket buyers. As Scott Mendelson notes at Forbes, Fifty Shades is “a true event film aimed at audiences that almost never get true event films: older women.”  

And it’s not just America that’s eating it up: the movie’s earned $158 million overseas, easily whipping The Matrix Reloaded to become the top international R-rated debut ever.