Box office forecasts for ‘Fifty Shades’ rise with controversy over film’s theme

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Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan attend the U.K. Premiere of "Fifty Shades Of Grey" at Odeon Leicester Square in London on Feb. 12. Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan attend the U.K. Premiere of "Fifty Shades Of Grey" at Odeon Leicester Square in London on Feb. 12.

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“Fifty Shades of Grey” is bringing the box office to a boil.
Forecasters at BoxOffice.com have raised their estimates for the second time in two weeks, and now say the controversial erotic drama will collect $95 million in U.S. and Canadian theaters over President’s Day weekend -- a record for February. Their original forecast was $61 million. The film opens Friday on 3,645 screens.
“All of the key pre-release signs, online sales, Facebook/Twitter activity and general online chatter, point to this film quickly becoming massive,” said Phil Contrino, chief analyst at Boxoffice.com. “It’s cultural impact will be immense.”
The forecasts suggest controversy surrounding film’s sadomasochistic theme hasn’t hurt the movie’s prospects, and may be helping. The feature, from Comcast Corp.’s Universal and its Focus Features unit, is poised to break the old February record held by Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.”
Universal is predicting a more conservative “north of $50 million” for ticket sales, according to the studio. Universal and Focus spent about $40 million making “Fifty Shades,” according to researcher Box Office Mojo, a sum that doesn’t include advertising and marketing costs. Studios split ticket sales with cinema owners.
The film stars Jamie Dornan as Seattle billionaire Christian Grey and Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele, a college student, and follows their sometimes violent sexual relationship. The online ticket seller Fandango has said it’s the fastest-selling R-rated movie in its 15 years.
Protests
The picture has led to some protests from women’s rights campaigners that say it glamorizes domestic violence. The British tea company Twinings, a unit of Associated British Foods Plc, was forced to pull a promotion linked to the film after feedback from customers.
The movie, based on the book by E.L. James, which has sold more than 100 million copies, is proving review-proof. It has garnered only 36 percent positive notices from critics, according to aggregator Rottentomatoes.com.
With the book translated in 52 languages, the studio expects the film to do even better in its international opening this weekend.
“Fifty Shades of Grey” might not be a good movie — O.K., it’s a terrible movie — but it might nonetheless be a movie that feels good to see, whether you squirm or giggle or roll your eyes or just sit still and take your punishment,’’ A.O Scott, wrote in a review for the New York Times.

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