LOS ANGELES — In one of the more awkward box office pairings in memory, the rough-sex sequel “Fifty Shades Freed” was No. 1 at North American theaters over the weekend, while the cuddly-cute “Peter Rabbit” did well with children in second place.
“Fifty Shades Freed” (Universal Pictures), which did not delight critics nearly as much as it did pun-enthralled headline writers, arrived to ticket sales of roughly $38.8 million. Based on the third and final book in the “Fifty Shades” series by E.L. James, “Fifty Shades Freed” cost an estimated $55 million to make, not including marketing. It was directed by James Foley (“Glengarry Glen Ross”) and co-stars Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan.
The “Fifty Shades” cultural fever ended a long time ago: Most readers discovered that a little of James’ writing goes a long way. But ticket sales for the final movie adaptation — marketed by Universal with a baldfaced tagline, “Don’t miss the climax” — were solid, declining only 16 percent from initial results for its series predecessor, “Fifty Shades Darker,” a year ago.
“Fifty Shades of Grey” kicked off the trilogy in 2015 with X-rated toy tie-ins and $85 million in opening-weekend ticket sales, an astounding total for an erotic drama, a genre that had long been out of favor at multiplexes. All told, the sadomasochistic series has collected roughly $1.1 billion at the worldwide box office, including $98.1 million in international ticket sales over the weekend for “Fifty Shades Freed.”
“Peter Rabbit,” an animated-live action hybrid that cost Sony Pictures about $50 million to make, after accounting for government production incentives, took in $25 million in the United States and Canada, according to comScore, which compiles box office data. Directed by Will Gluck (“Easy A”), the PG-rated “Peter Rabbit” features vocal performances by James Corden (Peter) and Margot Robbie (Flopsy).
Hollywood did not expect “Peter Rabbit” to register much interest. But a newly rejuvenated Sony picked a savvy release date — there are few family films in the market — and backed the film with a marketing campaign that made the 116-year-old Beatrix Potter character feel contemporary and even a smidgen cool, at least to the primary-school set.
Clint Eastwood had a tougher weekend with “The 15:17 to Paris.” A reconstruction of the 2015 effort by Ayoub el Khazzani to kill passengers aboard a European train — thwarted by vacationing U.S. servicemen — “The 15:17 to Paris” collected about $12.6 million, Eastwood’s lowest wide-release opening result since “J. Edgar” in 2011.
Poor reviews and the absence of marketable stars (the servicemen starred as themselves) likely hurt the film, which cost Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow a modest $30 million to make. About 60 percent of ticket buyers were over the age of 50, Warner said.