Los Angeles - Newcomers like Fifty Shades Freed, Peter Rabbit and The 15:17 to Paris breathed some fresh life into a marketplace that has for weeks been dominated by Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, The Greatest Showman and various Oscar contenders. But it's all just setting the stage for Black Panther, which opens next week
Fifty Shades Freed managed to take the top spot on the charts in North American theaters. Universal Pictures estimated Sunday that the final chapter in the Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele saga earned $38.8m over the weekend — down significantly from the first film's $85.2m debut and even the sequel's $46.6m opening, but enough to bump the three-film franchise over $1bn globally. Women once again made up the vast majority (75 percent) of the opening weekend audience.
"We are exhilarated with the results," said Jim Orr, Universal's president of domestic distribution. "To have a trilogy engineered primarily for a female audience that we were then able to broaden out into a billion-dollar franchise is just a fantastic result."
The studio expects a healthy mid-week bump on Valentine's Day and to serve as counter-programming over the holiday weekend against "Black Panther."
The steamy romance outdid other new competitors like Sony's CG and live-action update of Peter Rabbit, featuring the voice of James Corden, and Clint Eastwood's The 15:17 to Paris, starring the real men who thwarted an attack on a Paris-bound train in the summer of 2015.
Peter Rabbit, which cost around $50m to produce, hopped to second place with a solid $25m and an A- CinemaScore.
The 15:17 to Paris pulled into third place with $12.6m. Eastwood's dramatic thriller about the true story was not well-received by critics or audiences, who gave the film a poor B- CinemaScore.
Two films that just won't quit rounded out the top five: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle fell to fourth place with $9.8m and The Greatest Showman took fifth with $6.4m.
Overall the marketplace is still down around 1.8 percent for the year and around 27 percent from the same weekend last year which, comScore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian notes, saw the launch of The Lego Batman Movie, Fifty Shades Darker and John Wick: Chapter 2, all of which opened over $30m.
But the box office will pick up next weekend with Black Panther, which some analysts are pegging for a $150m start.
"This is the calm before the Marvel storm," Dergarabedian said. "Black Panther is going to supercharge this marketplace when it opens later this week. I think it's going to break records and spark a huge conversation."
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to comScore. Where available, the latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.
1. Fifty Shades Freed, $38.8 million ($98.1 million international).
2. Peter Rabbit, $25 million.
3. The 15:17 to Paris, $12.6 million ($5.3 million international).
4. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, $9.8 million ($7.5 million international).
5. The Greatest Showman, $6.4 million ($8.7 million international).
6. Maze Runner: The Death Cure, $6 million ($23.5 million international).
7. Winchester, $5.1 million ($860,000 international).
8. The Post, $3.5 million ($5.9 million international).
9. The Shape of Water, $3 million ($3.1 million international).
10. Den of Thieves, $2.9 million ($4.4 million international).
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada), according to comScore:
1. Fifty Shades Freed, $98 million.
2. Maze Runner: The Death Cure, $23.5 million.
3. Pad Man, $8.9 million.
4. Secret Superstar, $8.7 million.
5. The Greatest Showman, $8.7 million.
6. Les Tuche 3 (The Magic Tuche), $7.9 million.
7. Coco, $7.8 million.
8. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, $7.5 million.
9. Detective K: Secret Of The Living Dead, $6.9 million.
10. Till The End Of The World, $6.9 million.