No. 7 ‘Fifty Shades Of Grey’ – 2015 Most Valuable Movie Blockbuster Tournament

When it comes to evaluating the financial performance of top movies, it isn’t about what a film grosses at the box office. The true tale is told when production budgets, P&A, talent participations and other costs collide with box office grosses and ancillary revenues from VOD to DVD and TV. To get close to that mysterious end of the equation, Deadline is repeating our Most Valuable Blockbuster tournament, using data culled by seasoned and trusted sources.

Focus Features

The steamy EL James erotic novel trilogy was the subject of a memorable bidding battle which Universal won, with the studio granting the author creative controls unprecedented for a first-time novelist. James was very protective, leading to the exits of both director Sam Taylor-Johnson and screenwriter Kelly Marcel for the sequels. It was an eagerly watched project from the moment it was bought and through casting, which led to Dakota Johnson to land the role of Anastasia Steele and Jamie Dornan landing the role of Christian Grey, the handsome industrialist who is damaged in a way that he’s only comfortable being intimate if one partner is being dominated. Beyond the heavy breathing, did Fifty Shades rise to the occasion at the box office?

Here are the costs and revenues as our experts see them:

Sure, the movie was a challenge to manage, and certainly the critics didn’t love it, but once it dodged an NC-17 rating, this was clearly going to be a juggernaut. The core audience that loved the books — 125M have been sold worldwide — turned out in force. It was a massive hit, one of the cogs in Universal’s record box office year. Put together on a ridiculously shrewd $40M budget, Fifty Shades Of Grey opened to $85M on Valentine’s Day weekend (the fifth largest ever for an R rated film) after premiering days earlier at the Berlin Film Festival. It did three times as much business overseas, and despite not being allowed to play in China, Fifty Shades grossed $571M worldwide. Participations were mainly limited to the author, though others profited in success. Even though the director exited, the picture became the third highest grossing film directed by a woman. But the total line for those participations, along with residuals and off-the-tops, was only about $31M. So Universal’s net profit was a whopping $255M, with a Cash on Cash Return of 2. Small wonder that the studio, along with producers Michael De Luca and Dana Brunetti, went right into sequel territory. They hired James Foley to direct back-to-back film adaptations of the final two installments of the book trilogy.

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