The cinematic adaptation of “Fifty Shades of Grey” certainly lived up to the hype at the box office through its opening weekend – but does that mean R-rated, raunchy “romance” genre films will soon become commonplace?
“The movie truly hit a nerve with a broad global female audience, a female audience that wants to openly enjoy the different shades of their own sexuality,” L.A-based screenwriter Ariane Sommer told FOX411. “The entertainment industry has finally discovered that the female audience has a big hunger for sexy and sexual stories as does the male. Given the huge financial success of ‘Fifty Shades,’ I am certain we will see many more raunched up R-rated movies geared towards female viewers in the future.”
Over the four-day holiday and Valentine’s Day weekend, the erotic film brought in more than $94 million domestically and $266 million worldwide, off an estimated $40 million production budget, becoming the fourth-biggest R-rated opening in history and the third highest weekend debut for Universal Pictures, behind 2013’s “Fast & Furious 7” and “Fast Five” in 2011.
Directed by a female, Sam Taylor-Johnson, and starring Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson as the kinky billionaire businessman and the virginal college student respectively, the film reaped the benefits of a built-in fan base – given that it was based off E.L James’s best-selling novel.
With a full fifth of its running time made up of sex scenes, "Fifty Shades" proved to be a huge hit even in spite of generally negative reviews from film critics. According to film review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes, “Fifty Shades of Grey” scored a mere 26 percent – and was hammered with negative responses such as “it plays like a long, boring business meeting,” “such silliness” and “a monochromatic misfire featuring only one shade: blushing pink.”
James’ writing was also broadly panned following the book’s release in 2011, with her "Fifty Shades" trilogy referred to as “poorly written” by scores of critics, yet none of this appears to have weakened its climatic weekend opening.
“This shows the value of starting with an in-built fan base from the book and a long campaign of soft marketing. Like ‘Harry Potter,’ we will continue to see book franchises turn into movie franchises, TV series and games,” noted entertainment attorney, Julian Chan. “This is the new transmedia world, and it is not just limited to comic books and children’s stories.”
Universal also owns the rights to the next two books in the E.L James trilogy – “Fifty Shades Darker” and “Fifty Shades Freed.” While the studio has yet to confirm that these books will be adapted for the screen, analysts strongly predict that the film’s opening weekend numbers pretty much guarantees we'll see two more. Furthermore, stars Dornan and Johnson are reported to be under contract to return for any sequels that are made and have publicly confirmed their interest in the next installments. Filmmaker Taylor-Johnson also announced during a recent NBC interview that she was slated to direct “Darker,” although reports have not been favorable to screenwriter Kelly Marcel’s return.
A report from OnLocationVacations.com says the sequel will begin shooting in Vancouver in June, and rumors have been circulating the second installment will hit the theaters at some point in 2016. A rep for Universal simply stated that they have “not made announcements about the sequels.”
Hollie McKay has been a FoxNews.com staff reporter since 2007. She has reported extensively from the Middle East on the rise and fall of terrorist groups such as ISIS in Iraq. Follow her on twitter at @holliesmckay