The weekend before Valentine’s Day was a huge one for the box office back in 2017, with a kid movie (The LEGO Batman Movie), an action film (John Wick Part II) and a 50 Shades of Grey sequel racking up nearly $130 million between them. Studios offered the same mix of films this year — a kid movie (Peter Rabbit), an action movie (The 15:17 to Paris) and the final Fifty Shades movie — but came up more than $50 million short of last year’s numbers.
Fifty Shades Freed, however, mostly held up its end of the bargain, earning $40 million, down only slightly from the $46 million earned by Fifty Shades Darker last year. That movie would go on to earn over $100 million domestically and nearly $400 million worldwide. Expect similar results from Freed despite terrible reviews (11 percent on Rotten Tomatoes). The movies, based on the EL James novels, have a built-in fanbase who have seen the first two movies and are mostly determined to finish out the trilogy. The B+ CinemaScore also reflects that this one is being seen almost exclusively by fans of the novel, as opposed to Fifty Shades of Grey (C+ Cinemascore), which was being sampled by curious onlookers, most of whom didn’t like what they saw, hence the 50 percent drop in opening weekends from Grey ($85 million) to Darker ($46 million). The good news for non-Fifty Shades fans is that, now that the trilogy is done, it opens the weekend back up to more traditional romantic comedies. In fact, Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron’s romcom Flarsky has already called dibs on this weekend for 2019.
Meanwhile, in at second place is Peter Rabbit, which didn’t have the box office juice of last year’s The LEGO Batman ($53 million). Peter Rabbit, which has been badly marketed, grabbed just $22 million on a $50 million price tag. That is also down from the $37 million scored by the last bunny-themed kids movie, Hop, although Peter Rabbit can at least boast a much better Rotten Tomatoes score (58 percent compared to Hop’s 25 percent). Rabbit should nevertheless have decent legs at the box office, though it will have to face off against Aardman’s Early Man next weekend.