NORTH AMERICA: Weekend Estimates: ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Holds Off Newcomers to Remain #1 with $23.2M; ‘McFarland, USA’ Leads Openers with $11.3M; ‘The DUFF’ Surprises with $11.0M; ‘Hot Tub Time Machine 2’ Drowns with $5.8M

Sunday Update: Universal’s Fifty Shades of Grey held onto first place at the box office this weekend with an estimated $23.25 million. However, the successful romantic drama was down a massive 73 percent from last weekend’s three-day debut. Initial front-loading driven by the film’s pre-existing fanbase and Valentine’s Day along with mixed word of mouth and poor critical reviews are all having an effect on the film. Fifty Shades of Grey held up well during the midweek, so it is likely the film will perform relatively stronger on weekdays than during the weekend going forward. In the bigger picture, Fifty Shades of Grey is still performing very well and continues to run towards the higher end of expectations with $130.15 million through ten days. That places the film a very impressive 50 percent ahead of the $86.93 million ten-day take of 2010’s Valentine’s Day (which fell 70 percent in its second weekend to gross $16.67 million).

Fox’s Kingsman: The Secret Service took in an estimated $17.53 million to remain in second place. The Matthew Vaughn directed graphic novel adaptation starring Colin Firth was down 52 percent from last weekend. That represented a respectable second weekend hold, especially with last weekend’s debut having been inflated a bit by the dual-holiday weekend. Kingsman continues to exceed expectations with a healthy $67.11 million in its first ten days of release. The film is currently running 54 percent ahead of the $43.52 million ten-day gross of 2010’s Red.

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water held steady in third with an estimated $15.5 million. That represented a 51 percent decline from the previous frame. While The SpongeBob Movie has been relatively front-loaded for a family film so far, the film continues to exceed expectations in a very big way with $125.17 million through 17 days. That places The SpongeBob Movie 36 percent ahead of the $92.34 million 17-day take of 2011’s Rango. With no new family films entering the marketplace each of the next two weeks, The SpongeBob Movie could still stabilize going forward.

Disney’s McFarland, USA led this weekend’s openers with an estimated fourth place debut of $11.32M. The well received sports drama starring Kevin Costner opened on the high end of expectations. McFarland, USA opened 16 percent ahead of the $9.78 million start of last year’s Draft Day.

McFarland, USA opened with $3.62 million on Friday, increased 25 percent on Saturday to gross $4.53 million and is estimated to decline 30 percent on Sunday to take in $3.16 million. That gives the film a promising estimated opening weekend to Friday ratio of 3.12 to 1. McFarland, USA also received a promising A rating on CinemaScore. The audience breakdown for the film was evenly split between genders and skewed heavily towards moviegoers over the age of 25 (70 percent).

The DUFF followed closely behind in fifth place with an estimated $11.03 million. The PG-13 comedy from CBS Films and Lionsgate exceeded pre-release expectations and was helped out this weekend by relatively high levels of online buzz. The DUFF opened 26 percent stronger than the $8.93 million start of last year’s That Awkward Moment.

The DUFF opened with $4.28 million on Friday, essentially held even on Saturday with $4.26 million and is estimated to decline 42 percent on Sunday to gross $2.49 million. That places the film’s estimated opening weekend to Friday ratio at 2.58 to 1. The audience breakdown for the film skewed heavily towards female moviegoers (75 percent) and moviegoers under the age of 25 (68 percent). With an encouraging A- rating on CinemaScore and no real new direct competition until Cinderella and Insurgent open in March, The DUFF has a good chance of holding up nicely going forward.

Hot Tub Time Machine 2 stumbled out of the gates this weekend with a seventh place estimated debut of $5.8 million. The R-rated comedy sequel from Paramount opened below pre-release expectations and 59 percent below the $14.02 million start of 2010’s Hot Tub Time Machine. Clearly Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is a sequel that audiences weren’t excited about.

Hot Tub Time Machine 2 opened with $2.3 million on Friday, decreased 5 percent on Saturday to take in $2.19 million and is estimated to decline 40 percent on Sunday to gross $1.31 million. That gives the film an estimated opening weekend to Friday ratio of 2.52 to 1. Going forward Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is unlikely to hold up as well as its predecessor did, especially after receiving a lackluster C- rating on CinemaScore.

Warner’s American Sniper continued to have a presence at the box office with an estimated sixth place take of $9.65 million. The blockbuster Clint Eastwood directed Best Picture nominee starring Bradley Cooper was down a very solid 41 percent. American Sniper has grossed $319.61 million after 38 days of wide release and continues to march closer to becoming the highest grossing release of 2014 domestically (a mark which is currently held by The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 with $336.41 million).

Saturday Update: Universal reports that Fifty Shades of Grey easily retained first place on Friday with an estimated $8.0 million, down 74 percent from its massive opening day last week. With $114.9 million in the bank so far, the adaptation is pacing 10 percent ahead of the original Twilight and 51 percent ahead of Valentine’s Day. BoxOffice projects a sophomore frame of $24.1 million, easily repeating atop the weekend box office.

Holding onto second place Friday was Fox’s Kingsman: The Secret Service, off 49 percent from opening day to $5.3 million yesterday. The graphic novel pic has displayed healthy early legs thanks to positive word of mouth and, with $54.9 million totaled so far, leads Jumper by 26 percent and Kick-Ass by 95 percent through the same respective points in release. BoxOffice projects a solid $17.7 million second weekend.

Lionsgate and CBS Films report that The DUFF surprisingly led all newcomers on Friday with an estimated $4.27 million. The sleeper pic notably topped the $3.95 million opening day of last year’s That Awkward Moment despite boasting less star power. The studios behind the teen-centric flick successfully generated positive word of mouth through social media outlets after pre-release screenings in select markets, often drawing comparison to the 2004 hit, Mean Girls. DUFF‘s 73 percent Rotten Tomatoes score and “A-” CinemaScore back that up even further. Some front-loading to Friday could be expected, so BoxOffice is conservatively projecting an $11.1 million opening weekend.

Paramount’s The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water added another $4.0 million yesterday, down just 38 percent from last Friday. The sequel has earned an impressive $113.7 million domestically thus far, and its legs continue to showcase strong word of mouth among families. BoxOffice projects the flick will move back into second place for the weekend with an $18.9 million third frame.

Disney’s McFarland, USA bowed to $3.62 million yesterday, in line with last year’s Draft Day ($3.56 million) and Million Dollar Arm ($3.47 million). The latest Kevin Costner sports drama is performing in line with expectations, and could see healthy legs to come with positive critics’ reviews (78 percent) and early audience word of mouth (86 percent). BoxOffice projects a $10.4 million weekend.

American Sniper landed just outside the top five yesterday, easing 27 percent from last Friday to $2.72 million. The film has amassed $312.7 million to-date, and looks to bring in around $9.8 million for the weekend as a whole.

Meanwhile, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 was unable to capitalize on its predecessor’s goodwill. The comedy sequel opened to $2.3 million on Friday, less than half of the original’s $4.85 million first day five years ago. Unfortunately, reviews (14 percent) and early word of mouth (49 percent) don’t suggest the sequel will achieve anywhere near the same cult-like hit status as the first film. BoxOffice projects a disappointing $6.3 million opening weekend for the $14 million-budgeted sequel.

Check BoxOffice on Sunday for official weekend estimates from the studios.

Friday Update: Sources tells BoxOffice that Fifty Shades of Grey is headed for $25 million-$26 million during its sophomore frame, which will be more than enough to put in on top of the box office this weekend. Nobody will be surprised by such a steep drop after the film’s staggering debut frame.

None of the three newcomers this week won’t crack $15 million. Hot Tub Time Machine 2 leads the bunch, and it’s on pace for $12 million-$13 million. McFarland, USA should hit $10 million, while The DUFF is on pace for $8.5 million.

Check back tomorrow for updated projections and official studio numbers.