Fifty Shades Freed 123 Movies

Three new movies dominated the box office this weekend, led by the last installment of Universal Pictures’ erotic series “Fifty Shades.”“Fifty Shades Freed” generated an estimated $38.8 million in U.S. and Canadian theaters, researcher ComScore Inc. said Sunday in an email, outdrawing a new adaptation of “Peter Rabbit” and the Clint Eastwood thriller “The 15:17 to Paris.”

With three new releases, competition is heating up again for fan attention after several weeks in which holdovers led weekend receipts. The third episode of “Fifty Shades” lagged behind other films in the series, and the weekend overall fell short of a year earlier, continuing a slow start of 2018 for exhibitors.

“Fifty Shades Freed,” made for about $55 million, beat Box Office Mojo’s forecast of $38 million. The studio predicted a more modest tally in the low $30 millions. Both were far less than the $85 million series debut in 2015, which was widely seen as a successful, event movie even though it was critically panned.

Top critics gave the latest installment, featuring Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan in their recurring roles as Anastasia and Christian, 15 percent positive reviews at RottenTomatoes.com.Sony Corp.’s $50 million “Peter Rabbit” placed second with an estimated $25 million. It was forecast to generate $19 million, according to Box Office Pro. Fewer than half of top critics gave it positive reviews.

A starry cast with the voices of James Corden, Daisy Ridley and Margot Robbie feature in an adaptation of Beatrix Potter’s classic tale of a rebellious rabbit trying to sneak into a farmer’s vegetable garden.“The 15:17 to Paris” collected $12.6 million and landed in third place. The film cost Warner Bros. $30 million in production expense and was forecast to generate $16.5 million and place third, according to Box Office Mojo.

The film is based on the real-life terrorist plot aboard a Paris-bound train, thwarted by a group of Americans. In an unusual twist that was ultimately derided by critics, Eastwood used the real military recruits to play themselves.As the Fifty Shades film trilogy hangs up its paddle and rides off into the sunset on its inexplicable pommelhorse, one is tempted to draw some conclusions about what it gave us, as a culture.

What struck me from the first film — an adaptation of a wildly popular alternate-universe Twilight fanfiction series that attempts to be as in-depth a depiction of the BDSM lifestyle as Rihanna’s “S&M” — was not its fetish for ropes and cuffs, but for jets and real estate.

Money has always been the cushion for Fifty Shades’ spicier provocations, and it’s the aspect of the series that has aged the worst in the three years. Since E.L. James’s books originally made their splash, we as a culture took our sweet time realizing that most billionaires are more interested in deporting immigrants than sweeping young assistants off their feet, and we have become more suspicious of the powerful boss/naïve intern dynamic that fuels so much of the film’s sexual intrigue.

Not that anyone is or should be looking at these films with such a stern eye, I’m just saying that they look more out of step with the times than ever. As the trilogy goes out, more desperate than ever to convince us it was in on the joke all along, it’s hard to say exactly what the joke was.