Fifty Shades of Grey movie: The record-breaking phenomenon in numbers

How EL James created a cash cow

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The Independent Online

Everyone knows that sex sells and, if Fifty Shades of Grey is anything to go by, BDSM sex sells even more.

The highly-anticipated film, which is released today, is expected to rake in an excess of $100m at the box office on its debut weekend – which, of course, falls on Valentine’s Day.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Sam Taylor-Johnson’s adaption of EL James' erotic novel is forecast to gross $60 million or more in the US and more than $50 million internationally. But no one is likely to be surprised if the figures climb even higher, because this story about the relationship between playboy millionaire Christian Grey and naive student Anastasia Steele, played by Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson, has become a money-making leviathan since it was published in 2011.

Here are some of the numbers driving the hysteria:

Where it all began

The Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy has sold over 100 million copies worldwide and been translated into more than 50 languages. A couple of years ago you couldn’t get on public transport without seeing hordes of women, and occasionally men, engrossed in its pages.

It became the fastest-selling paperback of all time in the UK, with more than a million copies being shifted in just 11 weeks. 

In 2013 Forbes named EL James the world’s highest-earning author of 2012, after she earned an eye-watering $95 million.

150515842.jpgMaking the movie

Universal Pictures and Focus Features paid $5 million for the film rights back in 2012, after triumphing in a Hollywood bidding war between 10 studios. The Fifty Shades of Grey adaptation cost $40 million to make.

And even before it hit the silver screen, the move became one of the top five pre-sellers of all time, according to Fandango.


Fifty Shades of Everything

Lingerie and sex toy brands cashing in on the action is par for the course, but you can also get your hands on Fifty Shades of Grey-themed tea bags, nail varnish and… a Christian Grey teddy bear.

According to the New York Times, the US sex toy industry is anticipating a spike in sales following the film’s release. Meanwhile, mainstream retailers are stocking up on blindfolds, whips, handcuffs and masks.

A particularly graphic scene in the novel involves Kegel balls, which have been promoted for women’s sexual health after giving birth. After the book’s publication, the item’s manufacturer, California Exotic Novelties, sold one million in six months.

Sales in the lingerie industry hit a record £1.5 billion in 2012, a surge that was directly linked to the Fifty Shades effect, according to Marie Claire.

Popular US lingerie brand Hanky Panky told the New York Times that its After Midnight collection – one of its more saucy ranges that includes lace cuffs – grew 30 per cent in 2012 and racy UK retailer Ann Summers reported a 60 per cent surge in online sales during what its boss Jacqueline Gold called the Fifty Shades "phenomenon".

Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson in Fifty Shades of Grey

And women aren’t the only ones stirred by the erotic novel. Christian Grey’s style – sharp grey suits, naturally - proved so popular that British tailors Norton and Townsend designed a 200-piece collection of grey suits inspired by the book.

Audis got a starring role in the trilogy being Christian Grey’s vehicles of choice and its A3, R8 Spyder and Q7 sport-utility vehicle all making an appearance in the tale.

Audi didn’t pay a penny for the mentions, it told Ad Age in 2012, and couldn’t immediately tell if it was reaching more women or seeing an uptick as a result, but it say the halo effect had been and would continue to be "pretty significant".

Meanwhile, Pizza maker Dominos recently launched an ad campaign for its new spicy sriracha variety using the BDSM-theme to convey that with its latest dish: "You’re going to suffer and enjoy every moment".

To ram home the point, the ad features an image of a tongue dressed up in bondage gear and chained to a wall ready for its next whipping.