Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan in 'Fifty Shades Freed' (2018). (Universal Pictures /File)
Universal's "Fifty Shades Freed," the last chapter in the erotic romance trilogy that has enjoyed huge popularity among mostly female audiences, vaulted to the top of North American box offices with an impressive weekend opening estimated at $38.8 million.
With ticket sales rebounding sharply from totals depressed last week by football's Super Bowl, "Freed" led three new releases to the top, with Sony's "Peter Rabbit" coming in second and Warner Bros.' "The 15:17 to Paris" placing third, industry tracker Exhibitor Relations reported.
But the final chapter of the steamy "Fifty Shades" series -- promoted by Universal with the not-so-subtle line, "Don't Miss the Climax" -- dominated.
It accounted for a third of the total estimated take of the top 12 movies, helping push global sales for the trilogy past $1 billion.
Dakota Johnson stars again as English lit major-turned-publisher Anastasia Steele, while Jamie Dornan plays her lover-turned-husband, the kinky, hunky and frequently shirtless Christian Grey. Females accounted for three in four of the North American moviegoers, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The slightly more family-friendly "Peter Rabbit," which mixes live actors with computer-generated animation, raked in $25 million, far exceeding Sony's projections. James Corden voices the lead bunny as he feuds with garden owner Domhnall Gleeson for the affections of sweet-hearted neighbor Rose Byrne.
"The 15:17," director Clint Eastwood's recounting of how three young Americans foiled a 2015 terrorist attack aboard a passenger train in France, netted $12.6 million.
Eastwood took the unusual approach of having the three men, none with any formal acting experience, play themselves. Some critics called that a bold move, while others said the men's amateurism showed.
In fourth place, falling off from last weekend's top position, was Sony's "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle," at $9.8 million. The family flick, starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Jack Black and Kevin Hart, follows a group of teens who find themselves transported inside a video game world. The film has earned more than $800 million globally.
In fifth, down one spot, was "The Greatest Showman," a Fox film starring Hugh Jackman as larger-than-life circus impresario P.T. Barnum. It took in $6.4 million.
Rounding out the top 10 were:
"Maze Runner: The Death Cure" ($6.0 million)
"Winchester" ($5.1 million)
"The Post" ($3.5 million)
"The Shape of Water" ($3.0 million)
"Den of Thieves" ($2.9 million)