Wed | Jan 23, 2019

'Fifty Shades' premiere

Published:Monday | February 9, 2015 | 12:00 AM

NEW YORK (AP):Brittany Brown wouldn't miss the opening of the Fifty Shades of Grey movie for anything. She has read and re-read all three books, uses the app, follows FSOG roleplay on Twitter, and sets her DVR to record trailers for the highly anticipated Valentine's weekend release.

But ditching her boyfriend for her gal gang of superfans was problematic.

"February 14 is actually his birthday. He'll go out with his guy friends and I'll see FSOG with my friends. Later that evening, we'll all meet up to party. We'll celebrate Valentine's Day on Sunday as a couple," said Brown, a 22-year-old public relations intern in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Three years in the waiting, the opening of the erotic romance on sweethearts' weekend will be a breathless affair for Fifty diehards everywhere.

Some will have husbands in tow. Some already have tickets. And those book groups of mommies that helped propel the bondage story to more than 100 million copies sold? They'll be crowding theaters, too.

Lyss Stern in New York will be one of them with 50 friends, including some very expectant ones.

"Hopefully, nobody will go into labour," she laughed.

mom-centric social events

Stern, 40, throws mom-centric social events for a living and once fĂȘted Fifty writer E.L. James at the height of the mania over her books. Come February 13, Stern will be handing out treats to her buddies when they take their seats in a Manhattan theatre. She'll include special sweets and other, er, stuff.

"There will be some fun toys, of course," she promised. "It's the most buzzed-about film in the mommy world in a long time. It's a Sex and the City kind of excitement. We know it's not going to win an Oscar, but we also know it's going to be fun."

Jenna Mulford, manager of a two-screen independent cinema in Iowa Falls, Iowa, will have quite a weekend on her hands. At her Metropolitan Opera House, which it once was, she'll offer the faith-based Old Fashioned, a sweet look at abstinence outside of marriage, along with Fifty Shades.

She's sure there will be crossover, and a lively lobby conversation or two. Mulford reached out to churches in her area to make sure they knew Old Fashioned was coming while fielding numerous queries for Fifty.

"The curiosity is going to pull them toward one, and their faith is going to pull them toward the other," Mulford predicted.

Outscreened and out-financed, the creators of Old Fashioned held its release to open against Fifty Shades, poking fun along the way in trailers that flash cheeky tag lines. "Love is ... anything but grey," reads one.

Rik Swartzwelder stars in Old Fashioned as small-town antiques dealer Clay Walsh, a porn king turned Christian (of the religious, not Grey, variety) who refuses to be alone with any woman he's not married to, including a free spirit who rents the apartment above his shop.

He also wrote, directed and co-produced the movie, booked into about 200 theatres, and helped position it as the David up against the kinky Goliath on Valentine's weekend.

"It seemed like a unique time to say let's have this discussion," Swartzwelder said of the sexually disparate selections. "Who do we want to be?"

When it comes to Fifty, the women take it among fans. Nearly a quarter of women (24 per cent) say they have read some part of the trilogy, compared with only four per cent of men.

advance tickets

Number crunching aside, Kendra Davis and her husband are among those who nabbed Fifty tickets in advance.

"My husband is not into Fifty Shades. In fact, I'm sure he'll be surprised by the intensity and high level of intimacy in the film," said 28-year-old Davis, who works for a non-profit in the Cleveland area.

"Since it's Valentine's Day, I'm sure a lot of women are using this opportunity for date night and turning up the heat in the bedroom."

Maybe not everybody.

Mandy Menaker, 26, and her 32-year-old sister, Jamie Menaker, are both in relationships, but they'll be leaving the men folk at home. Valentine's Day is reserved for their partners, but they're carrying on a sisterly tradition by heading together to Fifty Shades opening weekend.

"During Valentine's week we pick out the best 'worst movie' we can find and sneak beer into the theatre," Mandy explained.

Ben Oduro, 27, a Bronx-raised talent agent, tried the first book, but he didn't make it through. Yet he'll be at a theatre - stealthily alone - on opening weekend.

"I just want to see what the fanfare is all about," he said. "That book is a no-no in my world. Being a black male and reading a book where the demographic is more Desperate Housewives or women in general is a ticket to be laughed at."

Oscar Mendizabal, 30, an Internet technology specialist in Los Angeles, is warming up to his Fifty movie date with his wife of nearly 12 years. They'll be joined by her brother and his girlfriend.

He's given up on his plan to sneak into American Sniper.

"At the end of the day," Mendizabal said, "I'm a sucker for love."