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‘Fifty Shades Freed’ dominates newcomers at box office

Following a lackluster Super Bowl weekend for theaters where films released around Christmas dominated the box office, this week’s three new wide releases all debuted at the top of the chart, led by Universal Pictures’ “Fifty Shades Freed.”

The final installment in the “Fifty Shades” trilogy debuted in first place to the tune of $38.8 million, according to figures from measurement firm ComScore.

Based on the third and final entry in the book series by British author E.L. James, the film was anticipated to gross about $33 million in North America, according to people who have reviewed pre-release audience surveys. It earned mixed reviews from audiences and critics, receiving a B+ from CinemaScore but an 11% “rotten” rating from review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes.

The two previous films in the trilogy grossed a combined $950 million. The first “Fifty Shades of Grey” opened in 2015 with $85 million domestically before grossing $571 million in global box-office receipts. Last year’s follow-up, “Fifty Shades Darker,” debuted to $47.6 million and eventually collected $381 million worldwide.

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“It’s very satisfying to see a trilogy designed primarily for an adult female audience be able to broaden out literally into a billion dollar franchise,” said Jim Orr, the studio’s distribution chief. “We couldn’t be more pleased with the debut.”

The films, about a sexually inexperienced woman who falls for an billionaire with eccentric sexual appetites, star Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan. In a pattern set by recent trilogies including “The Maze Runner” and “Pitch Perfect,” “Fifty Shades Freed” opened lower than its predecessor though Universal anticipates that the film will continue to play strongly throughout the week, particularly on Valentine’s Day this Wednesday.

“We obviously expect to have a very big bump on Valentine’s Day,” said Orr. “‘Fifty Shades Darker’ last year on Valentine’s Day was up about 180% over one day. We expect similar if not even more robust results for Valentine’s Day on Wednesday. And of course having a holiday weekend is great as well.”

In second place, Sony’s family film “Peter Rabbit” earned $25 million in its first weekend in theaters, well above analyst’s predictions of $16 million.

A modern-day computer-animated/live-action take on the Beatrix Potter character, estimated to have cost $50 million, the film stars James Corden as the voice of a mischievous bunny at war with his neighbor. The film also earned mixed reviews, receiving an A- on CinemaScore and a 58% “rotten” on Rotten Tomatoes.

The $25-million opening bests the $24-million summer debut of Sony’s critically panned but commercially successful “Emoji Movie” and the studio’s April disappointment “Smurfs: The Lost Village,” which opened with $13.2 million.

In third place, Warner Bros.’ “The 15:17 to Paris” earned $12.6 million in its first weekend, at the high end of the expected $10-million to $12-million range analysts projected.

The latest directorial effort by Clint Eastwood tells the real-life story of three Americans who thwarted the 2015 Thalys train attack by subduing a gunman. In an unusual twist, the American men, Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler and Alek Skarlatos, play themselves in the film. It earned a B- on CinemaScore and a 20% “rotten” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

“The 15:17 to Paris” follows a handful of Eastwood-directed hits about homegrown heroism, including “Sully” and “American Sniper.”

Coming in fourth, Sony’s “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” now in its eighth week, added $9.8 million in earnings, for a cumulative $365.6 million.

Rounding out the top five, Fox’s “The Greatest Showman,” also in its eighth week, added $6.4 million for a cumulative $146.5 million.

After debuting last week in third place, Lionsgate’s “Winchester” dropped to the seventh spot this weekend, adding $5 million to its $17.1 million gross.

Next week, Disney opens the highly anticipated “Black Panther,” Lionsgate debuts the animated “Early Man” and Pure Flix premieres the drama “Samson.”

sonaiya.kelley@latimes.com

follow me on twitter @sonaiyak


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