If there’s one lesson to be learned from today’s announcement by Universal Pictures that Fifty Shades of Grey has topped $500 million globally to become the studio’s most successful “R”-rated movie of all time, it’s that when it comes to theater audiences, sex sells.
Director Sam Taylor-Johnson’s big-screen adaptation of E.L. James’ erotic fantasy novel officially surpassed the $500 million mark worldwide, according to Variety, despite poor reviews from audiences and critics alike and an underwhelming overall performance at the U.S. box office after an impressive opening weekend. Its success (or lack thereof) at home did little to impede its momentum overseas, though, as the film earned more than $350 million internationally.
The film’s performance at the box office makes a sequel (or sequels) a relative certainty, though the studio has yet to officially announce them.
It’s worth noting that Fifty Shades of Grey moved to the top of Universal’s worldwide box-office record books for “R”-rated projects by passing a film released just last year: director Luc Besson’s action film Lucy, starring Scarlett Johansson. Similarly, Lucy had a less-than-stellar showing in U.S. theaters (although it did receive positive reviews from critics), but more than doubled its domestic box-office once it was released internationally.
For what it’s worth, Fifty Shades of Grey currently ranks #131 in the all-time ranking of movies’ box-office earnings globally, just after 1990’s Ghost and 1992’s Aladdin, and slightly ahead of 2014’s Rio 2 and 2004’s Troy.