The weekend saw two very different box office pairings to differing demographics as the rough sex “Fifty Shades Freed” ended the trilogy on a high along with family-friendly “Peter Rabbit.”
Oddly enough, the one that wound up getting controversy was “Peter Rabbit” over its food allergy treatment. Sony Pictures had to issue an apology after backlash hit when some felt it treated people suffering from food allergies too lightly.
The scene in the film shows the villainous Mr. McGregor, who suffers a blackberry allergy, being pelted by Peter Rabbit and his furry friends with the fruit. One berry fires into McGregor’s mouth and he begins to go into anaphylactic shock before stabbing himself with an EpiPen.
Some parents who saw the movie were outraged by the scene suggesting it depicts bullying of someone with a food allergy.
In a joint statement to the New York Times, Sony Pictures and the filmmakers said: “Food allergies are a serious issue. Our film should not have made light of Peter Rabbit’s archnemesis, Mr. McGregor, being allergic to blackberries, even in a cartoonish, slapstick way. We sincerely regret not being more aware and sensitive to this issue, and we truly apologize.”
Newcomers like “Fifty Shades Freed,” ″Peter Rabbit” and “The 15:17 to Paris” breathed some fresh life into a marketplace that has for weeks been dominated by “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” ″The Greatest Showman” and various Oscar contenders. But it’s all just setting the stage for “Black Panther,” which opens next week.
“Fifty Shades Freed” managed to take the top spot on the charts in North American theaters. Universal Pictures estimated Sunday that the final chapter in the Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele saga earned $38.8 million over the weekend — down significantly from the first film’s $85.2 million debut and even the sequel’s $46.6 million opening, but enough to bump the three-film franchise over $1 billion globally. Women once again made up the vast majority (75 percent) of the opening weekend audience.
Fifty Shades Freed” (Universal Pictures), which did not delight critics nearly as much as it did pun-enthralled headline writers. Based on the third and final book in the “Fifty Shades” series by E.L. James, “Fifty Shades Freed” cost an estimated $55 million to make, not including marketing. It was directed by James Foley (“Glengarry Glen Ross”) and co-stars Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan.
The “Fifty Shades” cultural fever ended a long time ago: Most readers discovered that a little of Ms. James’s writing goes a long way. But ticket sales for the final movie adaptation — marketed by Universal with a baldfaced tagline, “Don’t miss the climax” — were solid, declining only 16 percent from initial results for its series predecessor, “Fifty Shades Darker,” a year ago.
“We are exhilarated with the results,” said Jim Orr, Universal’s president of domestic distribution. “To have a trilogy engineered primarily for a female audience that we were then able to broaden out into a billion-dollar franchise is just a fantastic result.”
“Fifty Shades of Grey” kicked off the trilogy in 2015 with X-rated toy tie-and $85 million in opening-weekend ticket sales, an astounding total for an erotic drama, a genre that had long been out of favor at multiplexes. All told, the sadomasochistic series has collected roughly $1.1 billion at the worldwide box office, including $98.1 million in international ticket sales over the weekend for “Fifty Shades Freed.”
The studio expects a healthy mid-week bump on Valentine’s Day and to serve as counter-programming over the holiday weekend against “Black Panther.”
The steamy romance outdid other new competitors like Sony’s CG and live-action update of “Peter Rabbit,” featuring the voice of James Corden, and Clint Eastwood’s “The 15:17 to Paris,” starring the real men who thwarted an attack on a Paris-bound train in the summer of 2015.
“Peter Rabbit,” which cost around $50 million to produce, hopped to second place with a solid $25 million and an A- CinemaScore. Hollywood did not expect “Peter Rabbit” to register much interest. But a newly rejuvenated Sony picked a savvy release date — there are few family films in the market — and backed the film with a marketing campaign that made the 116-year-old Beatrix Potter character feel contemporary and even a smidgen cool, at least to the primary-school set.
“The 15:17 to Paris” pulled into third place with $12.6 million. Eastwood’s dramatic thriller about the true story was not well-received by critics or audiences, who gave the film a poor B- CinemaScore.
A reconstruction of the 2015 effort by Ayoub el Khazzani to kill passengers on board a European train — thwarted by vacationing American servicemen — “The 15:17 to Paris” collected about $12.6 million, Mr. Eastwood’s lowest wide-release opening result since “J. Edgar” in 2011.
Poor reviews and the absence of marketable stars (the servicemen starred as themselves) likely hurt the film, which cost Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow a modest $30 million to make. About 60 percent of ticket buyers were over the age of 50, Warner said.
Two films that just won’t quit rounded out the top five: “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” fell to fourth place with $9.8 million and “The Greatest Showman” took fifth with $6.4 million.
Overall the marketplace is still down around 1.8 percent for the year and around 27 percent from the same weekend last year which, comScore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian notes, saw the launch of “The Lego Batman Movie,” ″Fifty Shades Darker” and “John Wick: Chapter 2,” all of which opened over $30 million.
But the box office will pick up next weekend with “Black Panther,” which some analysts are pegging for a $150 million start.
“This is the calm before the Marvel storm,” Dergarabedian said. “‘Black Panther’ is going to supercharge this marketplace when it opens later this week. I think it’s going to break records and spark a huge conversation.”
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to comScore. Where available, the latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.
- “Fifty Shades Freed,” $38.8 million ($98.1 million international).
- “Peter Rabbit,” $25 million.
- “The 15:17 to Paris,” $12.6 million ($5.3 million international).
- “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” $9.8 million ($7.5 million international).
- “The Greatest Showman,” $6.4 million ($8.7 million international).
- “Maze Runner: The Death Cure,” $6 million ($23.5 million international).
- “Winchester,” $5.1 million ($860,000 international).
- “The Post,” $3.5 million ($5.9 million international).
- “The Shape of Water,” $3 million ($3.1 million international).
- “Den of Thieves,“$2.9 million ($4.4 million international).
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada), according to comScore:
- “Fifty Shades Freed,” $98 million.
- “Maze Runner: The Death Cure,” $23.5 million.
- “Pad Man,” $8.9 million.
- “Secret Superstar,” $8.7 million.
- “The Greatest Showman,” $8.7 million.
- “Les Tuche 3 (The Magic Tuche),” $7.9 million.
- “Coco,” $7.8 million.
- “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” $7.5 million.
- “Detective K: Secret Of The Living Dead,” $6.9 million.
- “Till The End Of The World,” $6.9 million.