British actor Jamie Dornan (R) and US actress Dakota Johnson
Los Angeles - AFP
Steamy bondage romp "Fifty Shades of Grey" dominated the North American box office on its opening weekend, whipping the competition to secure top spot -- and the biggest February opening ever -- industry figures showed Tuesday.
The erotic tale of billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and his sadomasochistic relationship with college graduate Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) pulled in $93 million -- more than 40 percent of the top dozen movies' sales -- according to box office tracker Exhibitor Relations.
Add to that earnings of $173 million outside the US, takes its international sales to over a quarter of a billion dollars -- $266 million to be exact.
The movie, which opened last week in Europe before its weekend US debut, scored the record haul despite some decidedly mixed reviews.
"While creatively better endowed than its print counterpart, '50 Shades of Grey' is a less than satisfying experience on the screen," said the Rotten Tomatoes movie ranking website, which gave it a lackluster 26 percent approval rating.
Another Valentine's Day weekend opener was British spy-comedy flick "Kingsman: The Secret Service," starring Colin Firth and Samuel L. Jackson, which debuted in second place with a haul of $41.8 million.
The performance of the two newcomers was easily enough to shove last week's top film, "The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water," down to third place, with $40 million in sales over the long Presidents' Day holiday weekend
"American Sniper," relegated to fourth place, had $18.8 million in ticket sales.
Since its release, the highly acclaimed "Sniper" has raked in $305 million and a half-dozen Oscar nominations, including a best actor nod for Bradley Cooper in the title role.
"Jupiter Ascending" sold the fifth most tickets, with a $10.8 million in its second weekend.
The fantasy flick pairs Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum and is a first foray into the genre for sibling directors Lana and Andy Wachowski since their work on "The Matrix" series.
"Paddington," a big-screen adaptation of the family classic about a bear lost in the big city, earned $5.8 million for the sixth spot.
"Seventh Son," a 3-D fantasy-action film starring Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore, was in seventh place, earning $4.8 million.
"The Imitation Game," which stars Benedict Cumberbatch as codebreaking genius Alan Turing, took $4.2 million in eighth place, followed by comedy "The Wedding Ringer" with $3.7 million in ninth.
Rounding out the top 10 was science fiction tale "Project Almanac," with $3.3 million.