Even before its first screenings, “Fifty Shades of Grey” was poised for a big opening this Valentine’s Day weekend.
The movie — based on the first book in British author E. L. James’ erotic trilogy — is already the fastest-selling R-rated film in the 15-year history of the movie-ticket selling site Fandango. Hundreds of show times are sold out across the country, including several at Fresno’s Edwards Stadium. The film is doing surprisingly well in the South and Midwest, according to the company.
“The anticipation for this film is across the board,” Fandango’s chief correspondent, Dave Karger says in a release. “ ‘Fifty Shades’ is a true phenomenon all across the country.”
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It has garnered the kind of of hype usually reserved for big-name blockbusters.
“Fifty Shades of Grey” was one of the four most anticipated films in 2015, along with “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2.” That’s according to Fandango in a poll of more than 1,000 of its customers.
For months, fans have debated the film’s casting choices and questioned whether any movie could fully portray the love story between college graduate Anastasia Steele and young business magnate Christian Grey The couple are heavy into bondage and S&M.
When the film’s trailer was released last month, it received 36 million views in one week and has since been viewed more than 250 million times. It even spawned a set of parodies. There is one made with Legos and another with Barbie dolls. One has actor Steve Buscemi in the lead.
Michelle Cassida won’t be seeing the film on its opening weekend, but that’s only because she has to work. The 45-year-old plans to see it as soon as she can, though. It will be a girls’ night out, she says.
Cassida admits to getting caught up in the excitement of “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Yes, she debated with her girlfriends who should play the lead roles, especially that of Christian Grey. Her choice was Ryan Gosling.
“That’s kind of who I pictured in my head,” she says. “He’s very intense, but he’s also extremely good looking.”
She’s not worried that the film’s leads (Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan) are relatively unknown. In fact, it’s better they are not uber celebrities, Cassida says. A better known star might detract from the story.
It’s the story that matters.
Cassida read the first book mostly out of curiosity, but she was pulled into the relationship between Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey. She’s now read the full trilogy and when she talks about the characters, she uses their full names and a tone that shows investment in the story that goes beyond the numerous sex scenes.
“To me, the book is a love story,” Cassida says. “Women love a good love story.”
Especially when it is done in a way that is fresh and slightly taboo.
“It was just so new and something no one had done before,” Cassida says.
The book, which was originally self-published, has sold more than 100 million copies, putting it in a league with the “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” series and the “Nancy Drew” books. It caused BDSM (the short form for Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sadism and Masochism) to became a household term, getting talk on morning shows and the nightly news.
Even now, “Fifty Shade of Grey” continues to be on Fresno County Public Library’s list of Top 5 Most Requested titles.
“It’s been on the list since it was published,” says Terry Sterling, the library’s manager of materials handling.
The library has 16 copies of the book in circulation. All are checked out and there are 74 people waiting for the book to be available. Sterling expects a bump in that number now that the movie is out. Another 20 copies of the book are on order to meet the demand.
The fact that the book is so popular and is such a part of pop culture gives people an excuse to read or see “Fifty Shades” without feeling embarrassed about its sexual content, Cassida says, although she had friends who were still ashamed to admit it. She wonders if the film will downplay the more taboo parts of the central relationship. American films can be prudish that way.
It won’t make or break the movie for her, she says: “I’m just hoping they do the characters justice.”