Given the buzz leading up to the feature adaptation of E.L. James' Fifty Shades of Grey, it should come as little surprise that the film performed very well at the box office for its Thursday night preview, racking up a cool $8.6 million. That makes it the second-highest Thursday night preview ever.

According to Deadline, Fifty Shades falls just behind The Hangover 2, which currently holds the record for midnight previews, having made $10.4 million ahead of it's Memorial Day weekend release in 2011. As for Fifty Shades of Grey, the film can boast that it's Universal's highest grossing late night show ever, coming out ahead of Fast & Furious 6 ($6.5 million).

The popularity of the trilogy of books is likely to play a big factor in how well this film is already doing at the box office. E.L. James' story originated as Twilight fan fiction, which she later reworked to make it a more original story, centering on a rich businessman who introduces a virginal college grad to the rougher side of sex. The three-part story originally hit shelves in 2011 and early 2012 and quickly rose to popularity, due to a combination of its romantic story and steamy content.

Fans have been eager to see the feature adaptation since then. Dakota Johnson signed on to play Anastasia Steele in September 2013, after which Charlie Hunnam was lined up to play Christian, but he dropped out a month later. The role was recast with The Fall's Jamie Dornan.

The recasting and some issues with the script resulted in Focus and Universal having to push the film's release from Summer 2014 to Valentine's Day weekend of this year. Alas, the day has finally come, and it all started last night when Fifty opened in theaters of previews across the country. Deadline says Fifty Shades of Grey's wide release will span 3,645 theaters, including 75 IMAX theaters. So it should be interesting to see how the movie does over the weekend, and whether it surpasses the expected $50 million four-day gross.

In addition to box office numbers, I'm curious to see how fans receive the film. Among critics, the movie is coming up rotten, presently at 29% on Rotten Tomatoes, with 125 reviews logged. Reviews are likely still trickling in however, which may work for or against that score in the long run. As for fans, the jury's still out and probably will be until at least the end of the weekend.

I saw Fifty in a full theater last night, and the crowd seemed to be enjoying it, but we'll have to wait and see what the general buzz is among fans as the weekend gets going. As for my own reaction, I didn't set my expectations high for the adaptation, as I was admittedly uncertain how a story like this would play on the big screen. But overall, i was pleasantly surprised by what Sam Taylor-Johnson did with the first novel of James' trilogy, and particularly pleased with Dakota Johnson's portrayal of Anastasia Steele. Johnson's sharp sense of humor has served her well in the past, and this role was no exception. Her reactions to Christian Grey's seriousness offset the tension nicely.

The film obviously requires the viewer to buy into the romance element early on. If you're not on board with that, I can't imagine you'd enjoy the film. But for those willing to give Ana and Christian's tempestuous romance a chance, I'd say Fifty Shades plays as fun, occasionally amusing, dramatic and steamy from beginning to end. And it leaves the door wide open for a sequel (or two).

If you're a fan of the book, see it with other fans of the book. If you hated the book or had no interest in reading it... well, I hear Kingsman is really good.

Will you see FIfty Shades of Grey this weekend?
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