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‘Fifty Shades Freed’ Dominates Box Office Battle

Final installment of S&M-themed romantic trilogy takes the top spot.

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It may be the type of film that makes critics want to scream a safe-word midway through viewing, but Fifty Shades Freed came out on top at the box office in its opening weekend.

The third installment in the S&M romantic trilogy — based on the popular novels by E.L. James — debuted with $38.8 million domestically and a global haul of $136.9 million. Even more impressively, that total pushed the film franchise past $1 billion, an impressive total considering how awful the reviews have been for Fifty Shades of Grey (2015), Fifty Shades Darker (2017) and Fifty Shades Freed.

“The movies were not intended to be Oscar-caliber films but have provided fans with guilty pleasures,” Paul Dergarabedian, ComScore senior box office analyst, told RealClearLife. “Had the Fifty Shades movies have been given a plus of the critics then you might have seen better sustainability. But for a lot of franchises, $1 billion in the bank would be considered a great result.”

Still, considering the global phenomenon the books at the time the first film debuted three years ago on Valentine’s Day, it’s hard not to view the trilogy’s performance as a sign that fans fell out of love with Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson). A case could be made that James wielded too much script approval or the lead actors didn’t bring enough star power or the source material wasn’t ready for its closeup. Perhaps the answer is D, all of the above.

So perhaps it’s appropriate that Fifty Shades Freed will soon get spanked.

The movie will be submitting its box office crown to a new king next weekend — and that will likely be the beginning of a true reign. That’s when Marvel’s Black Panther lands and is projected to open at $140 to $150 million opening over the President’s Day weekend. The film has already broken several pre-sale records on the ticketing site Fandango and has emerged as an important milestone for African-American moviegoers who have waited a long time for such a high-profile hero of color.

Black Panther
Chadwick Boseman in Marvel’s ‘Black Panther’ (MARVEL STUDIOS)

“It’s going to represent so many things to so many people it is a watershed moment,” said Dergarabedian. “You look at Wonder Woman, its importance to many women, and how it remained in the conversation for weeks and weeks until it became a cultural phenomenon that everyone just had to see.

Black Panther is shaping up to strike  a similar chord in the zeitgeist.”

So by this time next week, the Fifty Shades saga will be shackled to the history books, and a new franchise will dominate.