Los Angeles — Audiences were more than curious to check out the big-screen adaptation of the racy phenomenon Fifty Shades of Grey this weekend. The erotic drama sizzled in its debut, earning an estimated $81.7m from 3,646 theatres in its first three days, distributor Universal Pictures said on Sunday.
In addition to destroying Valentine's and President's Day weekend records, Fifty Shades of Grey has also become the second-highest February debut ever, behind Passion of the Christ's $83.9m opening in 2004.
The chart-topping film cost a modest $40m to produce. Starring Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey, it could be on track to earn over $90m across the four-day holiday weekend.
According to Universal, North American audiences were 68% female.
Internationally, director Sam Taylor-Johnson's adaptation of E L James' book earned an estimated $158.3m from 9,637 locations in 58 territories. That's the second biggest international opening for Universal, right behind the $160.3m debut from Fast & Furious 6, and the highest international opening for an R-rated film ever.
Director Matthew Vaughn's Kingsman: The Secret Service also exceeded expectations, landing in second place with an estimated $35.6m from 3 204 locations across the three-day, according to box office firm Rentrak.
The R-rated comic book adaptation starring Colin Firth and Samuel L. Jackson cost a reported $81m to produce and should earn around $41m across the four-day period.
Animated children's film The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water came in third with $30.5m in its second weekend in theatres, falling only 45%. As one of the few family-friendly options in theatres, Paramount's PG-rated movie could pass $100m by the end of the holiday weekend.
Rounding out the top five were holdovers American Sniper, with $16.4m, and Jupiter Ascending, with $9.4m.
The Oscar-nominated American Sniper, now in its fifth weekend of wide release, has earned over $300m in North America to date.