Detractors wondered if the erotic novel "Fifty Shades of Grey" could make a showing on the big screen. Could the steamy book, which became a viral success among women who privately downloaded it to their e-readers, really draw audiences to multiplex theaters?
The answer was a resounding yes, when this weekend it brought in $94.4 million, the largest Presidents Day weekend box office ever.
And what goes around comes around: The movie's popularity has put E.L. James' books back on top. The "Fifty Shades of Grey" box set, which includes all three novels in the trilogy, now tops Amazon's bestseller list.
James had a huge and unexpected hit with "Fifty Shades of Grey," and its sequels, "Fifty Shades Darker" and "Fifty Shades Freed." When she sold the film rights, she retained a large degree of creative control.
"I was thinking about the readers," she told the Associated Press. "I had to fight for a lot of things really hard. And I did."
"The fact is, it's a love story, and women respond to the love story," she continued. "The fact that there's a little bit of kinky sex in there is sort of like an added bonus. It's just become sensationalized because it's like ... oh my God, women like sex. Yes we do, thank you very much!"
Rare for an author, James has been a constant presence on the publicity circuit as the film has screened in New York, Berlin and London. Tensions between James and director Sam Taylor-Johnson seem to be smoothed over on the red carpet, but rumors persist that the director will depart for the film's sequels.
Moviegoers who haven't yet read the bestselling book -- or are getting a hard copy where before they'd only had digital versions -- have made the "Fifty Shades of Grey" trilogy box set Amazon's No. 1 bestseller. James' books occupy three other spots on Amazon's bestseller list: "Fifty Shades of Grey" on its own at No. 4, "Fifty Shades Darker" at No. 6, and "Fifty Shades Freed" at No. 9.