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'Fifty Shades Freed' whips up $38.8 million to top the movie charts

Universal expects the third "Fifty Shades" film to enjoy a midweek bump on Valentine's Day and to serve as counter-programming when "Black Panther" opens.
Image: \"Fifty Shades Darker\"
Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson at the premiere of 'Fifty Shades Darker,' the second installment of the 'Fifty Shades' series, in Los Angeles in February 2017. Part three, 'Fifty Shades Freed,' opened No. 1 at the box office this week.Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images file
/ Source: The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — Newcomers like "Fifty Shades Freed," "Peter Rabbit" and "The 15:17 to Paris" breathed some fresh life into a marketplace that has been dominated for weeks by "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle," "The Greatest Showman" and various Oscar contenders. But it's all just setting the stage for "Black Panther," which opens next week.

"Fifty Shades Freed" managed to take the top spot on the charts in North American theaters. Universal Pictures estimated Sunday that the final chapter in the Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele saga earned $38.8 million over the weekend — down significantly from the first film's $85.2 million debut and even the sequel's $46.6 million opening but enough to bump the three-film franchise over $1 billion worldwide.

Women once again made up the vast majority (75 percent) of the opening weekend audience.

"We are exhilarated with the results," said Jim Orr, Universal's president of domestic distribution. "To have a trilogy engineered primarily for a female audience that we were then able to broaden out into a billion-dollar franchise is just a fantastic result."

The studio expects the film to enjoy a healthy midweek bump on Valentine's Day and to serve as counter-programming over the holiday weekend against "Black Panther."

(Universal Pictures is a division of NBCUniversal, which also owns NBC News.)

The steamy romance outdid other new competitors, like Sony's CG and live-action update of "Peter Rabbit," featuring the voice of James Corden, and Clint Eastwood's "The 15:17 to Paris," starring the real men who thwarted an attack on a Paris-bound train in the summer of 2015.

"Peter Rabbit," which cost about $50 million to produce, hopped to second place, with a solid $25 million and an A- CinemaScore.

"The 15:17 to Paris" pulled into third place, with $12.6 million. Eastwood's dramatic thriller about the true story wasn't well-received by critics or audiences, who gave the film a poor B- CinemaScore.

Two films that just won't quit rounded out the top five: "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" fell to fourth place, with $9.8 million, and "The Greatest Showman" took fifth, with $6.4 million.

Overall, the marketplace is still down by about 1.8 percent for the year and by about 27 percent from the same weekend last year, which saw the launches of "The Lego Batman Movie," "Fifty Shades Darker" and "John Wick: Chapter 2," all of which opened with more than $30 million, said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore.

But the box office will pick up next weekend with "Black Panther," which some analysts are pegging for a $150 million start.

"This is the calm before the Marvel storm," Dergarabedian said. "'Black Panther' is going to supercharge this marketplace when it opens later this week. I think it's going to break records and spark a huge conversation."

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to comScore. Where available, the latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

  1. "Fifty Shades Freed," $38.8 million ($98.1 million international).
  2. "Peter Rabbit," $25 million.
  3. "The 15:17 to Paris," $12.6 million ($5.3 million international).
  4. "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle," $9.8 million ($7.5 million international).
  5. "The Greatest Showman," $6.4 million ($8.7 million international).
  6. "Maze Runner: The Death Cure," $6 million ($23.5 million international).
  7. "Winchester," $5.1 million ($860,000 international).
  8. "The Post," $3.5 million ($5.9 million international).
  9. "The Shape of Water," $3 million ($3.1 million international).
  10. "Den of Thieves,"$2.9 million ($4.4 million international).