By Vintage Books (www.thefilmguy.net) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Vintage Books (www.thefilmguy.net) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Sadomasochism may not be many people’s first thought for a “girls night out,” but it looks as if the steamy, kinky film “Fifty Shades of Grey” — which is expected to be a major Valentine’s Day weekend hit — may draw huge crowds anxious for a different kind of romantic movie.

With Valentine’s Day coinciding with Presidents’ Day weekend, the R-rated romantic drama — opening throughout the region Friday — could gross as much as $60 million nationally during the four-day holiday weekend, Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Rentrak, told City News Service.

The film adaptation that one review labeled as “erotic kink” focusing on sexual submission, is based on the first of a trilogy of books by British author E.L. James. It’s expected to do great business as a date film and a girls-night-out picture, Dergarabedian said. His company is a major reporting firm for audience attendance at movie theaters.

“It could be a trade-off situation among couples — ‘I’ll see ‘Fifty Shades’ with you if you see ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ with me,” the analyst said.

“It’s an interesting dynamic, combined with people wanting to see something new in the theaters that everyone’s been talking about,” he said.

Unlike red roses and good chocolates, the appeal of “Fifty Shades of Grey” could be hard to explain.

“You almost need to be a sociologist to understand how audiences react to controversial films,” Dergarabedian said. “You have to understand at what point a movie is perceived to be romantic and at what point it’s perceived as erotic. ‘Fifty Shades’ is walking that tightrope of what is socially acceptable. Ultimately, the audience will be the judge.”

Alternatives to “Fifty Shades” at the box office this weekend include “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” starring Colin Firth and Samuel L. Jackson; “American Sniper”; and family favorite “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water.”

Clearly, though, the media’s focus is aimed at “Fifty Shades,” which has spawned a line of products ranging from sex toys to cookbooks, wine and even a teddy bear suited up as the Christian Grey character.

“This is a pop-cultural phenomenon that spills over beyond entertainment news into the mainstream,” Dergarabedian said. “With so many entertainment options, you need that extra hook to fuel people’s desire to see the movie.”

—City News Service

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