UPDATE 1-"Fifty Shades of Grey" rakes in $81.7 million on opening weekend

Sun Feb 15, 2015 1:51pm EST
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By Chris Michaud

Feb 15 (Reuters) - "Fifty Shades of Grey," the widely anticipated adaptation of the best-selling novel about a kinky relationship between a businessman and a college student, took in $81.7 million in ticket sales to soar to the top of U.S. and Canadian weekend box office charts.

The film, which stars James Dornan and Dakota Johnson as the libidinous couple, far outpaced the No. 2 release, "Kingsman: The Secret Service," which took in $35.6 million from Friday through Sunday, according to studio estimates.

Third place on the U.S. Presidents' Day holiday weekend went to the family-friendly "The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water," based on the popular television show about a talking animated sponge, which sold $30.5 million in tickets at U.S. and Canadian theaters.

"Fifty Shades" got a boost from a Valentine's Day opening after it was released earlier in the week in 57 foreign markets. It took in an additional $158 million overseas, for a global total of $240 million.

Early U.S. screenings on Thursday night brought in $8.6 million, setting the scene for a record-breaking opening for any Presidents' Day weekend.

Nick Carpou, president of domestic distribution for Universal Pictures, the Comcast Corp. Unit that released the film, said a combination of Valentine's Day, a long holiday weekend and intense interest from smaller and mid-sized markets all helped drive the record numbers.

Pre-sale figures in southern states such as Mississippi and Kentucky reflected especially high interest. Sales in the northeast, being pummeled by another big winter storm, as well as in the south-central regions of the country, exceeded what might have been expected, Carpou said.   Continued...