Fifty Shades of Grey screen adaptation has topped the North American box offices this weekend with an estimated $81.7 million.
It was the second-highest February debut ever, behind The Passion of the Christ‘s $83.9 million opening in 2004.
Based on E.L. James’ best-selling novel, Fifty Shades of Grey is directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson and stars Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson.
According to Universal Pictures, North American audiences were 68% female.
The film’s takings were more than double those of its nearest box office rival, Kingsman: The Secret Service, which earned $35.6 million, according to studio estimates.
Around the world, Fifty Shades of Grey took an estimated $158 million from 58 countries.
E.L. James’s trilogy of Fifty Shades books have reportedly sold more than 100 million copies worldwide and been translated into more than 50 languages.
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water came third on the box office chart with $30.5 million in its second weekend on release.
Rounding out the top five were the Oscar-nominated American Sniper with $16.4 million, and sci-fi fantasy Jupiter Ascending with $9.4 million.
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Fifty Shades of Grey screen adaptation has premiered at this year’s Berlin Film Festival in Germany.
British novelist E.L. James attended the event with director Sam Taylor-Johnson and stars Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson.
“It’s an extremely romantic movie and at the heart of it, it is a love story,” Taylor-Johnson told reporters.
“I think we’ve got that balance right.”
The movie has its UK premiere in London later, ahead of a worldwide release on February 13.
Accompanied by her husband, actor Aaron Johnson, Sam Taylor-Johnson – formerly Taylor-Wood – said she was “very nervous and excited” at the thought of screening the film to an international audience.
The visual artist turned film-maker said she was “proud of what we’ve achieved” and “proud of [her] cast”, which also includes singer Rita Ora and Oscar-winning actress Marcia Gay Harden.
E.L. James’s Fifty Shades trilogy details the affair between a young student, Anastasia Steele, and a billionaire businessman, Christian Grey.
Fans waited all day on February 11 outside Berlin’s Zoo Palast theatre, some armed with flowers and copies of the books.
James Dornan said he was prepared for the additional attention playing Christian Grey would bring.
“I accepted that this role would change my life when I took the part,” said the Northern Irish actor.
“Although when you see the way fans are reacting, it hits you afresh.
“However, I’m still the same person I was before I was Christian Grey. I have a wife and a child and my circle of friends are the same. I’m not going anywhere.”
Speaking on the red carpet, the actor acknowledged “the book and the film aren’t to everyone’s taste”.
“But that’s fine,” he continued.
“I think we’ve done something classy.”
“It’s very important that everyone who might wish to judge remembers that Anastasia acts of her own free will in the movie,” said co-star Dakota Johnson.
“It’s a story where everything that happens between these two people is consensual.”
The 25-year-old said her parents, actors Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith, had yet to see the movie but were “very proud” of her.
An estimated 4.5 million tickets have already been sold in the 39 countries where Fifty Shades of Grey will be released this weekend.
Sam Taylor-Johnson confirmed she is in talks to direct the next two films of the trilogy but said nothing had been decided “as yet”.
E.L. James said she was “excited” but “hated” being the centre of attention.
“To be honest, I’m looking forward to going home later and reading all about it with a gin and tonic,” she revealed.
The best-selling novelist, whose real name is Erika Mitchell, said she had had “input as a producer from the first to last frame”.
“What you see up there, I had a say in all of it,” she declared.
In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Sam Taylor-Johnson admitted she and E.L. James had clashed during shooting and that making the film had been “an incredibly painful process”.
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