Another Fifty Shades of Grey
There are few opportunities for the members of the adult market to make inroads into the mainstream market, and if one such opportunity arises, it should be seized. A great example of how the line between mainstream and adult can be blurred came in the form of Fifty Shades which turned into a major phenomenon between 2011 and 2015. But how much of an impact will the second movie have when it hits theatres on Valentine’s Day 2017? And will it have a positive effect on the adult market?
Will millions of people all over the world rush to their local multiplexes to see the second part of Fifty Shades? Probably. And once they’ve seen it, will they rush right on to their local adult store to buy handcuffs, dildos, etc.? Probably not. That said, I do think there will be a palpable Fifty Shades effect creating additional sales for the adult trade.
Currently, the odds are that the upcoming movie will be a success at the box office. The trailer was one of the most-watched previews on YouTube, and bad reviews didn’t stop the audience from flocking to theatres the first time around. And if the movie draws big crowds, it will get people talking about sexuality, toys, and bondage again.
The film’s release is on Valentine’s Day, and that alone will inspire many couples to go see it. Which, in turn, may inspire them to forego chocolates and roses this year, and go for a more titillating present for their significant other.
Of course, we need to keep our expectations in check, but if a retailer doesn’t ride the Fifty Shades wave – at least to a certain degree – they may well miss out on some additional sales. The Fifty Shades phenomenon has been a boon for the adult industry for years. Of course, the impact of the novels and the movie have lessened over time, but do you remember an instance after the release of the movie when the mainstream media paid similar attention to adult themes and adult products? Well, two years have passed since the first film, which is enough of a break to bring back interest in a major way and cause a new hype.
Admittedly, this hype may not be comparable to the insanity surrounding the novels and the first film – simply because there won’t be the same kind of “shock effect” that turned people’s heads in 2011, when the first book hit the shelves – but that doesn’t change the fact that Fifty Shades Darker is the only big media event the adult trade and industry can use to generate additional sales.
And let’s not underestimate the marketing machine behind the movie. This movie will put a spotlight on eroticism and sexuality, it will inspire the audience to think and talk about adult products, and the media coverage of the film will only increase that effect. All things considered, the second Fifty Shades film should once again be a great opportunity for the adult market. And in my humble opinion, the Fifty Shades effect will also extend to the inevitable third movie. By then, it may be down another notch from what have seen in 2015 and will see in 2017, but hey, it will still be clearly felt in our industry.
No matter what you think of the Fifty Shades novels and the first movie, they got many newcomers interested in the world of adult products, and they promoted the public discussion about sexual freedom and sexual fulfilment. There are no concrete numbers about the impact of this phenomenon on the companies and trade in the adult industry and their bottom line, but it is an undisputable fact that Fifty Shades has had a positive effect on the global market – and not just in the short term, but also in the long run. There’s no arguing that. But where do we go from here?
Even though interest in the trailer for the second movie seems to have been enormous, it is more than unlikely that the second wave will come anywhere near the high-water mark of the original Fifty Shades hype. Why, you wonder? Well, who’s going to get swept up by this second wave? Obviously, there are hardcore Fifty Shades fans who will eat up everything bearing that name, but what about new viewers, new buyers, new consumers? If you didn’t care about the book trilogy and the first movie, chances are you’ll continue to give wide berth to the adventures of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele.
Whatever curiosity people may have had, it should be sated after the last few years. First, there was the craze surrounding the novel trilogy, then, in 2015, there was the movie. Both represented something new and exciting in their own right – all the more since this open approach to sex, fetishes, etc. felt like a serious breach of taboos to many consumers. I still vividly remember how Fifty Shades was all over the media, how some liked it and some condemned it, how people were throwing around buzz words like ‘house wife porn’ and the like. Now, this novelty factor is gone, and that alone will make it difficult to reach similar levels of hype. The movie probably won’t be making many headlines – unless it gets the same caustic reception from critics as its 2015 predecessor (even listing all the Razzy nominations would go beyond the scope of this feature) – as everybody knows, bad PR can also be good PR. But when people just shrug indifferently, that’s when you’re in trouble. BDSM? We’ve already had that. Domination and submission? Old hat.
Of course, the story isn’t breaking much new ground, either. If you look at Star Wars, for instance, you have a whole universe of storytelling opportunities, with countless characters and stories you can tell. Fifty Shades, on the other hand, is about two protagonists who have an erotic relationship. And that’s it. Going over the same things and conflicts over and over again can quickly become tedious. You need to strike the iron while it’s hot, and critics might argue that the iron has cooled down quite a bit. That may also mean that the consumers’ reaction will lag behind trade and industry expectations. Of course, I hope to be proven wrong, and that I’ll happily eat these words if the second wave of Fifty Shades has cash tills ringing and sales soaring. But for the time being, I’ll retain the right to remain sceptical.