NEW YORK — 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 role play on Twitter and set 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.
“Feb. 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, Md.
Three years in the waiting, the opening of the erotic romance on sweethearts’ weekend will be a breathless affair for “Fifty” die-hards 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 labor,” she laughed.
Stern, 40, throws mom-centric social events for a living and once feted “Fifty” writer EL James at the height of mania over the books. Come Feb. 13, Stern will be handing out treats to her buddies when they take their seats in a Manhattan theater. 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.”
In North Hampton, N.H., you can count Lou Altman wholeheartedly, completely voluntarily, in.
“My wife and I have been planning this date since the movie was announced,” said the 50-year-old head of a satellite communications company. “Any half-smart husband will go see this movie with his wife. There WILL be a payoff.”
The ticket-buying site Fandango said pre-sales have propelled “Fifty Shades” into the 15-year-old company’s all-time Top 5 for R-rated selections. Several hundred screenings have already sold out, including Tupelo, Miss., and Chattanooga, Tenn.
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 outfinanced, the creators of “Old Fashioned” held its release to open against “Fifty Shades,” poking fun along the way in trailers that flash cheeky taglines. “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 theaters, 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?”
As Mulford juggles her church guests and “Fifty” fans, Universal Pictures has offered “Fifty” blockbuster treatment with wide release around the world for the holiday.
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.”