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‘Fifty Shades’ Becomes Biggest Box-Office Opening in History for a Female Director

'Fifty Shades' Becomes Biggest Box-Office Opening in History for a Female Director

"Fifty Shades of Grey" likely won’t overtake Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck’s "Frozen" as the highest-grossing female-directed film of all time (the Disney fairy tale probably has that title locked down for some time with its $1.3 billion worldwide box-office tally). But Sam Taylor-Johnson nonetheless made box-office history by having the largest opening weekend for a female director ever, with $81.7 million in ticket sales by Sunday night and an expected $94.4 million by the end of this four-day weekend. 

Though the E.L. James adaptation was banned in some countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, and Kenya, it also made another $158 million in 50-odd countries for a international haul of $245.5 million in just three days. Not too bad for a production with a $40 million budget. 

Before turning to directing, Taylor-Johnson had a long career in photography and video art. Her one previous film was "Nowhere Boy," a portrait of John Lennon as a young man, making her the rare exception to the indie-to-blockbuster pipeline that Manohla Dargis has identified as a career launcher for directors like Marc Webb ("(500) Days of Summer" to the "Spider-Man" reboot) and Colin Trevorrow ("Safety Not Guaranteed" to the "Jurassic Park" reboot) that’s all-too-rarely offered to female filmmakers. 

Hopefully, Taylor-Johnson won’t suffer the same fate as "Twilight" director Catherine Hardwicke and find herself booted off the mega-successful franchise she launched and replaced by her male colleagues. 
The Hollywood Reporter provides a handy top-twelve list of the highest opening box-office weekends from women directors (note that Anne Fletcher, director of the upcoming Reese Witherspoon-Sofia Vergara comedy "Hot Pursuit," and Betty Thomas are the only helmers to appear twice): 

Twilight (2008) — $69.6 million (Catherine Hardwicke)

Frozen (2014) — $67.4 million (Jennifer LeeChris Buck)

Brave (2012) — $66.3 million (Brenda ChapmanMark Andrews)

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (2009) — $48.9 million (Betty Thomas)

Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011) — $47.7 million (Jennifer Yuh Nelson)

Deep Impact (1998) — $41.2 million (Mimi Leder)

The Proposal (2009) — $33.6 million (Anne Fletcher)

What Women Want (2000) — $33.6 million (Nancy Meyers)

Unbroken (2014) — $30.6 million (Angelina Jolie)

Doctor Dolittle (1998) — $29.0 million (Betty Thomas)

Zero Dark Thirty (2012) — $24.4 million (Kathryn Bigelow)

27 Dresses (2008) — $23M (Anne Fletcher)

[via Hollywood Reporter, Hollywood Reporter]

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This film is one step forward for women directors and ten steps back for women in general. When I think that this, along with other grotesque odes to female masochism – The Story of O, Emmanuelle, Boxing Helena, Romance – were all created by women, it actually makes me feel ashamed to BE one – a rare feeling for me.


Exactly! Is it female driven or female sex driven?


I am always criticizing Hollywood for sexualizing and exploiting women. Am I supposed to be happy because a movie about sexual bondage directed by a woman made a lot of money. I am more embarrassed that proud. It’s a bad movie and does nothing positive for the image of women as portrayed in movies. Shame on you!

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