Two R-rated films--based on books-at opposite ends of the of the cinema spectrum-hit theaters on this Valentine's Day weekend...
After lots of build-up the film adaptation of the erotic E L James book "Fifty Shades of Grey" at Universal Pictures and Focus Features arrives (reviews).
The sexually-explicit story follows 27-year-old billionaire Christian Grey (British actor Jamie Dornan) and 22-year-old virgin college student Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson TV's Ben and Kate and The Social Network"), who develop a relationship steeped in bondage, S&M, domination and submission.
Kingsman: The Secret Service (reviews) is based on the comic book created by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons--follows a seasoned Secret Service agent (Colin Firth) who takes a younger agent (Taron Egerton) under his wing as they investigate the murder of every resident of a small town and a mysterious secret involving Mount Everest.
Michael Caine joined the cast in the role of the head of the Secret Service. Samuel L. Jackson will play the villain. Sophie Cookson ("Moonfleet") plays the female lead. Mark Strong, Sofia Boutella, and Jack Davenport also star.
Pamela McClintock of THR:
Is Fifty Shades of Grey turning into a datenight movie?
The R-rated Fifty Shades of Grey has become the top title of all time in terms of advance ticket sales for Valentine's Day, as well as for the Presidents Day weekend, besting Valentine's Day, according to online ticketing service Fandango.
To boot, it's pacing to become Fandango's No. 4 advance seller of all time behind The Twilight Saga: New Moon, the final Harry Potter movie and The Hunger Games.
MovieTickets.com is also reporting intense interest in Universal and Focus Features' R-rated adaptation of EL James steamy S&M novel, with advance sales accounting for 75 percent of its business for the long Valentine's Day and Presidents Day weekend (it's commanding 80 percent of all Fandango sales).
While women are expected to make up the vast majority of the audience, it appears that many are convincing their partners to make the movie a Valentine's Day destination. According to MovieTickets.com, 80 percent of tickets for Valentine's Day (Saturday) are being purchased by couples. That compares to 26 percent on Friday.
Fifty Shades, made for a relatively modest $40 million, is expected to gross $60 million or more over four-day holiday weekend, although Universal is being more cautious and saying $50 million-plus.
To date, Valentine's Day (2010) holds the record for best Valentine's Day/Presidents Day weekend gross in North America with $63.1 million.
Many box office experts believe Fifty Shades could outperform industry expectations, considering the massive awareness surrounding the film, directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson and starring Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan.
Either way, it will easily beat Matthew Vaughn's Kingsman: The Secret Service, starring Colin Firth, to top the box office chart.
Fifty Shades is likewise expected to do potent business overseas, or north of $50 million in its debut, based brisk advance ticket sales. Following its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival Wednesday night, the $40 million film is opening virtually everywhere where allowed (Malaysia, a predominately Muslim country, has banned Fifty Shades, while other Muslim countries aren't likely to play it either).
James' Fifty Shades trilogy has been translated into 52 languages and sold more than 100 million copies worldwide.