The next big box office weekend is expected to be the pre-Valentine’s Day period of February 10-12, and Christian Grey will not have the upper hand.

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Focus Features

Universal’s Fifty Shades Darkerthe highly anticipated sequel to 2015’s Fifty Shades of Grey, the feature adaptation of E L James’ S&M romance novel, is currently expected to ring in between $30M-$42M, filing behind Warner Bros.’ behemoth animated toy-brick title The Lego Batman Movie, which per industry estimates is expected to open north of $50M. In addition, Lionsgate will have the R-rated John Wick: Chapter 2 in the marketplace to placate older men yearning for something with a bit more bite than Mr. Grey and Anastasia Steele’s bedroom follies. John Wick 2 is currently projected to do $20M, which would be an improvement on the 2014’s original $14.4M opening. The pic ended its stateside run at $43M.

Before Deadpool decimated all previous Valentine’s Day, February and R-rated openings with $132.4M last year, Fifty Shades of Grey owned the three-day high for the second month of the year and the lovers holiday with $85.1M over three days and $93M over four. While older women in groups made a date to watch the film (women repped 78% of the opening night’s audience), the movie also benefited from pulling in their guys on the Valentine’s Day holiday, which fell on a Saturday that year. Fifty Shades of Grey opened against 20th Century Fox’s R-rated shoot-’em-up Kingsman: The Secret Service, which served as solid counterprogramming and opened to $36.2M and finaled with a 3.5 multiple of $128.2M. In a complete role reversal this time, Fifty Shades Darker looks to serve as counterprogramming to Lego Batman. 

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One major studio rival executive advised that Uni is relentless about marketing Fifty Shades, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the sequel’s ticket-sale projections swell in the weeks to come. The video for “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever (Fifty Shades Darker),” Zayn’s hit single featuring Taylor Swift, off the sequel’s album, drops this Friday; the song sold close to 300K copies in its first week of release in early December and currently is in the Billboard Top 10. Other artists on the Fifty Shades Darker soundtrack include Sia, Nicki Minaj, Nick Jonas, Rita Ora and Corinne Bailey Rae. The Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack sold 2.2M units around the globe and spawned a number of hit singles. Uni dropped the Fifty Shades Darker trailer back in September and broke The Force Awakens‘ 24-hour trailer view record, 114M to 112M.

Fifty Shades of Grey was immune to a poor CinemaScore (C+) and film reviews (25% rotten), turning in a final domestic of $166.1M and $571M worldwide off a $40M production cost. (That said, the pic was front-loaded and saw a 74% drop in its second weekend). After all ancillaries, Deadline finance sources assessed that Fifty Shades of Grey made a net profit of $255M-plus.

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Currently, among women over 25, Fifty Shades Darker has a 90% total awareness, 40% definite interest and 11% unaided awareness (a double digit in the latter slot is very hopeful). Lego Batman has a total awareness of 83% among moms (women over 25) with a 9% unaided awareness but is showing a definite interest of 49% among guys under 25. John Wick: Chapter 2 is showing a strong total awareness (76%) and definite interest (50%) among guys over 25.

The last time Valentine’s Day fell on a Tuesday was in 2012, and the weekend preceding saw the Channing Tatum romance film The Vow take No. 1 with $41M, followed by Denzel Washington-Ryan Reynolds drama Safe House with $40M. Total ticket sales for the period were $191.9M. But when Valentine’s Day falls on the weekend, it makes a heck of a difference: Last year’s Deadpool weekend of February 12-14 drew $239.1M, while during the Fifty Shades weekend of February 13-15, 2015, all films combined to earn $213.9M.