Well before Disney/Marvel’s Black Panther truly gets 2018 going at the box office with an $85M-plus start, the pre-Valentine’s Day weekend of Feb. 9-11 looks to be a strong one with Universal’s adult trilogy finale Fifty Shades Freed leading the pack with a $37M to $40M-plus opening.
On the high-end, that’s a great start considering last year’s part 2 Fifty Shades Darker minted a $46.6M weekend and legged out to 2.45x multiple or $114.6M. Some of those in the press poo-pooed the sequel’s figures, not only because it came in second to The Lego Batman Movie, but also in comparison to the first title’s mammoth $85.1M start stateside and $571M global gross off a $40M production cost. However, Fifty Shades Darker found its mojo after Valentine’s Day with an $11M lead and ultimately earned $381M off a $55M production cost. From this point on, it’s the female fans of the book that Uni is largely banking on for the sexually-charged thriller whereas with the first movie there was a big play to seduce the uninitiated to the feature adaptation of E.L. James high-gloss S&M novel.
Tracking shows the James Foley-directed threequel with a strong 74% total awareness and 26% definite interest skewing, of course, very heavy female. Why do they still want to go to see the S&M escapades of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey? As the doctor in the end of the trailer exclaims, “It seems you’re pregnant, Mrs. Grey”.
Sony Pictures Animation’s modern day take on Beatrix Potter’s classic Peter Rabbit from director Will Gluck is also looking like a solid form of counter-programming with a $18M million start, and a shot at the mid $20M with a 64% total awareness, 29% definite interest and moms leading the charge.
Clint Eastwood’s thriller The 15:17 to Paris from Warner Bros/Village Roadshow which follows a group of American soldiers who uncover a terrorist plot aboard a train bound for Paris is a true wild card here. While some show it as low as $10M for the weekend, others believe high-teens with a possible shot at $20M. The pic is based on the book by soldiers Anthony Sadler, Spencer Stone, Jeffrey Stern and Alek Skarlatos and all four guys actually star in the movie as themselves. Following the uber success of American Sniper and how that film spoke to the heartland to the tune of $350.1M, it’s anyone’s guess how high The 15:17 to Paris will go, or whether it will play massively to the flyover states. Warners was never expecting American Sniper to be as big as it was.
Again, all these box office figures are projections and could jump up or down in the weeks to come.