LOS ANGELES : Audiences were more than curious to check out the big-screen adaptation of the racy phenomenon "Fifty Shades of Grey" this weekend. The erotic drama sizzled in its debut, earning an estimated $81.7 million from 3,646 theaters in its first three days, distributor Universal Pictures said on Sunday.
In addition to destroying Valentine's and President's Day weekend records, "Fifty Shades of Grey" has also become the second-highest February debut ever, behind "Passion of the Christ's" $83.9 million opening in 2004.
The chart-topping film cost a modest $40 million to produce. Starring Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey, it could be on track to earn over $90 million across the four-day holiday weekend.
According to Universal, North American audiences were 68 percent female.
Internationally, director Sam Taylor-Johnson's adaptation of E L James' book earned an estimated $158.3 million from 9,637 locations in 58 territories. That's the second biggest international opening for Universal, right behind the $160.3 million debut from "Fast & Furious 6," and the highest international opening for an R-rated film ever.
Director Matthew Vaughn's "Kingsman: The Secret Service" also exceeded expectations, landing in second place with an estimated $35.6 million from 3,204 locations across the three-day, according to box office firm Rentrak.
The R-rated comic book adaptation starring Colin Firth and Samuel L. Jackson cost a reported $81 million to produce and should earn around $41 million across the four-day period.
Animated children's film "The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water" came in third with $30.5 million in its second weekend in theaters, falling only 45 percent. As one of the few family-friendly options in theaters, Paramount's PG-rated movie could pass $100 million by the end of the holiday weekend.
Rounding out the top five were holdovers "American Sniper," with $16.4 million, and "Jupiter Ascending," with $9.4 million.
The Oscar-nominated "American Sniper," now in its fifth weekend of wide release, has earned over $300 million in North America to date.