Universal Pictures is actively moving ahead with FIFTY SHADES DARKER, the sequel to “Fifty Shades Of Grey.” This news should not really come as a surprise to anyone. Universal is betting on the fact that their upcoming “Fifty Shades of Grey” adaptation will make a lot of money, and I think that would be a pretty safe bet. With an estimated budget of $40 million I suspect they will not have a problem hitting that magical 1.5x the budget (to cover both production and marketing) in the first few weeks. Assuming the same group of people who bought tickets for the “Twilight” series (the first one was made for a similar budget and ended up grossing $192 million domestically) buy tickets for “Fifty Shades Of Grey” than this franchise will go strong no matter the quality of the actual film. Getting a head start is a smart move on Universal’s part, because the sooner they have a workable script, the sooner they can start production on the second installment of this cash-cow franchise.
Currently, more than 70 million copies of “Grey” have been sold, and the film is not even out yet, which always gives a book a boost. Remember that the first book was the fastest selling paper back of all time. So, that means if 11% (approximately) of the people who have bought the book go to see the movie, than it will reach the $60 million mark (based on the national average for movie tickets of $8.36). Those are good odds considering the love and fanaticism these books receive. Add to that the pop culture references to the books (in shows ranging from “The Office” to “Vampire Diaries”) over the past few years, and there is practically no one who doesn’t know something about these stories.
But for those of you that need a refresher, this sequel will continue the sexual saga of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey. Daunted by the singular sexual tastes and dark secrets of the beautiful, tormented young entrepreneur Christian, Anastasia has broken off their relationship to start a new career with a Seattle publishing house. But desire for Christian still dominates her every waking thought, and when he proposes a new arrangement, Anastasia cannot resist.
Now that I have gotten past all the nitty gritty stuff, the really surprising part about this news is that it appears that “Fifty Shades Darker” is currently an open writing assignment (OWA)! That’s right all you writers out there, get your resumes and writing samples ready, call your agents and managers, and get in line to be the writer on what is almost guaranteed to be a box office success. Kelly Marcel adapted “Grey” from the novel, but then both Patrick Marber and Mark Bomback were hired to come in for polishes. Now it looks like Universal wants to start fresh with the sequel and they don’t have anyone specific in mind… every screenwriter’s dream.
None of the cast has officially signed on yet, and there is also no official word on whether or not director Sam Taylor-Johnson will be back either, but those are easy negotiations for the studio to have later. Kristin Lowe will be back as an executive, and Michael De Luca and Dana Brunetti will still be producing.
Having said all of that, remember that the box office can be fickle and nothing is ever set in stone. Movies that track incredibly well can end up flopping and just because writers have been brought on to write a sequel prior to a film’s release, does not mean the film will actually get made (just ask Thomas Lennon and Ben Garant about their experience with “Herbie Fully Loaded 2″). I don’t believe that will be the case with the “Grey” series, but you never know.