Weekend Box Office (February 13 - 16, 2015)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Smashing the all-time opening weekend record for Presidents Day weekend, the hotly anticipated erotic drama Fifty Shades of Grey opened huge soaring to an estimated $94.4M over the long Friday-to-Monday holiday session. The Universal smash averaged an eye-popping $25,890 from 3,646 theaters by pulling in fans of the best-selling sex-filled novel who had been waiting for the story to be put onto the big screen. The previous record holder for this holiday weekend was the romantic comedy Valentine's Day with $63.1M in 2010. Shades beat that record by an impressive 50% and the Friday-to-Sunday portion was a stellar $85M.

It was the fourth biggest opening weekend of all time for an R-rated film and highest ever for the month of February. It was also the top non-sequel debut in company history for Universal. The much-buzzed-about film was developed through its specialty division Focus with the studio taking over and giving it a major league push.

The record weekend began on Friday with a colossal $30.3M including $8.6M from Thursday night pre-shows starting at 8pm. Normally films of this nature with intense fan love draw the bulk of their business on opening day and then slip on Saturday. But with Valentine's Day falling on day two, Fifty Shades actually rose 21% that day to a spectacular $36.7M. The studio saw a 51% fall Sunday to $18.1M. Pre-sales were among the best for any film in history with fans making their plans in advance for Thursday, Friday, or Saturday shows. Tickets went on sale over a month ago.

Critics were quite harsh in their reviews of Fifty Shades before it released and paying audiences were in agreement as its CinemaScore grade was a lousy C+. Given the low audience scores and intense upfront demand, look for rapid erosion in the days and weeks ahead. A last-minute IMAX version was offered tapping into those willing to pay a premium and the 85 screens contributed $2.1M over four days.

Studio data showed that opening day audiences skewed female, as expected. 68% were women while 58% were over 25. Delayed from its August 2014 release date, Universal wisely picked Valentine's Day weekend - the one time of the year when men are most likely to submit to seeing films they actually do not want to see. The strategy worked wonders. Brilliant marketing for months paid off handsomely, especially the use of Beyonce's music in trailers and TV spots which helped to give broad mainstream appeal.

A day and date release in most of the world delivered a stunning $172M from 58 international territories through Monday for a jaw-dropping $266.4M global debut. These are super hero numbers! Most major markets opened this weekend with Korea to come on February 26 and China having no date yet. Leading the way overseas was the U.K. with a mammoth $21.1M in three days for the ninth largest opening of all-time. Lead actor Jamie Dornan is from Northern Ireland and author E.L. James is British. Other notable launches were $15.2M over four days in Germany, $12M over five days in France, and $10.5M across four days from Russia. Produced for about $40M, a global gross north of $600M could result. The next film in the franchise is said to be in development for a release next year some time.

Opening to strong results in second place was the comic-inspired spy flick Kingsman: The Secret Service with an estimated $42M over four days from 3,204 locations for a muscular $13,109 average. The R-rated hit opened significantly better than recent action offerings debuting over Presidents Day weekend including last year's RoboCop and the previous year's A Good Day To Die Hard which were both based on well-known brands. Those launched in the $25-29M range over the long Friday-to-Monday period. Colin Firth and Samuel L. Jackson starred in Kingsman as hero and villain, respectively, and tapping into a male fanboy audience was key.

Many action films have sputtered this year but Kingsman connected with moviegoers. Saturday even witnessed a sizable 47% surge for Valentine's Day from audiences preferring shooting over spanking. Those polled by CinemaScore gave a decent B+ average grade while reviews were generally positive. The opening weekend performance ($36.2M over three days) fell in between Denzel Washington's last film The Equalizer (also R) which debuted to $34.1M and the $39.2M of Liam Neeson's Taken 3. That's great company to have.

Last week's top choice The SpongeBob Movie took a tumble in its second frame, despite not having any new kidpics to compete with. The Paramount title fell to an estimated $40M over four days which was still a robust amount of business and boosted its cume up to a solid $103.1M. The new toon has already beaten The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie which collected a total of $85.4M in 2004. Reaching past $150M is possible.

Clint Eastwood's runaway smash American Sniper broke the $300M mark on Sunday as it continued on its record-breaking run. Its fifth weekend of wide release saw an estimated $19.5M in grosses across four days for a new North American tally of $307.2M. Sniper has now joined the list of all-time domestic blockbusters sitting at number 44 surpassing 1996's Independence Day. Warner Bros. has enjoyed tremendous success and news coverage in recent days about the trial of the real "American Sniper" killer has helped to keep this film on the minds of movie audiences. It is the second biggest R-rated film of all-time trailing the $370.3M of The Passion of the Christ which it will probably not beat.

Suffering the worst drop of any film in the top ten was the sci-fi bomb Jupiter Ascending which grossed an estimated $10.7M in its second weekend. Cume for the Warner Bros. release is just $33.8M, a weak amount for an action film costing more than $175M to produce.

Kidpic Paddington did well with an estimated $5.4M raising the total to $63.6M for The Weinstein Co. Seventh Son followed with an estimated $4.8M giving Universal a measly $14M. Weinstein's The Imitation Game collected an estimated $4.1M, with $80.2M overall.

Kevin Hart saw his comedy The Wedding Ringer fall to an estimated $3.7M giving Sony $60M thus far. Paramount's Project Almanac rounded out the top ten with an estimated $3.3M and a $20.1M sum.

Opening very well in platform release was the award-winning vampire comedy What We Do In The Shadows with an estimated $84,000 from solo houses in New York and Los Angeles for a stellar $41,778 average. Reviews were quite strong across the board and Paladin/Unison will expand next weekend into the top ten markets.

If estimates hold, this will be a record Presidents Day weekend beating out 2010's explosive session which saw the Top 20 gross a stunning $233.4M over four days.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $227.8M over four days which was up 23% from last year when The LEGO Movie stayed at number one with $63.5M; and up a sizable 59% from 2013 when A Good Day To Die Hard debuted on top with $28.6M.

Compared to four-day projections, both Fifty Shades of Grey and Kingsman opened well ahead of my respective forecasts of $75M and $24M.

Get earlier box office updates and analysis by following BoxOfficeGuru.com on Twitter.

Check the box office chart of Oscar nominations and grosses. Watch the trailer for Furious 7.

Be sure to check back on Tuesday for final figures and again on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Hot Tub Time Machine 2, McFarland, USA, and The DUFF all open.

# Title Feb 13 - 16 Feb 6 - 8 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Fifty Shades of Grey $ 93,010,350 3,646 1 $ 25,510 $ 93,010,350 Universal
2 Kingsman: The Secret Service 41,761,512 3,204 1 13,034 41,761,512 Fox
3 The SpongeBob Movie 40,007,494 55,365,012 -27.7 3,654 2 10,949 103,140,055 Paramount
4 American Sniper 18,779,843 23,289,113 -19.4 3,436 8 5,466 306,478,136 Warner Bros.
5 Jupiter Ascending 10,755,447 18,372,372 -41.5 3,181 2 3,381 33,876,593 Warner Bros.
6 Paddington 5,770,559 5,220,940 10.5 2,244 5 2,572 63,963,867 Weinstein Co.
7 Seventh Son 4,841,540 7,217,640 -32.9 2,874 2 1,685 14,111,980 Universal
8 The Imitation Game 4,179,402 4,687,391 -10.8 1,551 12 2,695 80,311,825 Weinstein Co.
9 The Wedding Ringer 3,707,333 4,719,532 -21.4 1,456 5 2,546 60,050,350 Sony
10 Project Almanac 3,300,551 5,232,672 -36.9 1,732 3 1,906 20,130,127 Paramount
11 Black or White 3,166,371 4,537,267 -30.2 1,591 3 1,990 17,882,673 Relativity
12 Still Alice 2,094,000 881,000 137.7 502 5 4,171 5,012,000 Sony Classics
13 The Boy Next Door 2,003,705 4,111,835 -51.3 1,192 4 1,681 34,038,525 Universal
14 Taken 3 1,265,978 2,314,437 -45.3 691 6 1,832 86,940,705 Fox
15 Selma 1,250,195 1,690,342 -26.0 566 8 2,209 48,514,386 Paramount
16 Old Fashioned 1,083,308 38,965 224 2 4,836 1,126,199 Freestyle
17 Birdman 1,030,070 1,301,830 -20.9 481 18 2,142 36,630,755 Fox Searchlight
18 The Theory of Everything 904,301 993,809 -9.0 466 15 1,941 33,339,004 Focus
19 Big Hero 6 890,686 346,310 157.2 317 15 2,810 219,482,366 Disney
20 Whiplash 679,000 772,000 -12.0 515 19 1,318 10,525,000 Sony Classics
Top 5 $ 204,314,646 $ 109,476,809 86.6
Top 10 226,114,031 132,753,774 70.3
Top 20 240,481,645 144,846,505 66.0
Top 20 vs. Prez Day 2014 240,481,645 204,167,000 17.8

Last Updated: February 16, 2015 at 2:50PM ET

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