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‘Fifty Shades Darker’ opening looks hazier than ‘Grey’

Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan in

Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan in "Fifty Shades Darker," their second film based on E.L. James' novels. Credit: Universal Pictures / Doane Gregory

THE MOVIE “Fifty Shades Darker”

THE DEAL The sequel to the bondage romance “Fifty Shades of Grey” might get a spanking at the box office, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The first film, starring Dakota Johnson as an innocent college girl and Jamie Dornan as a kinky billionaire, made a splash in 2015 with an $85-million opening on Valentine’s Day and seemed to promise a successful franchise based on the bestselling novels by E.L. James. The two stars return in the follow-up, but original director Sam Taylor-Johnson has been replaced by James Foley (“Glengarry Glen Ross”) and the new screenwriter is the author’s husband, Niall Leonard. Pre-release tracking suggests the movie will open with $40 million, not even half the original film’s sales. “Fifty Shades Darker” opens Feb. 10.

WHO Saoirse Ronan

THE MOVIE “Sweetness in the Belly”

THE DEAL The star of “Brooklyn,” about a young Irishwoman struggling to adapt to her new life in 1950s America, will play another immigrant in a film based on Camilla Gibb’s novel, Variety reports. The book, about a white Muslim woman who was raised in Africa and becomes a refugee worker in London, could benefit — or perhaps suffer — from the recently inflamed passions over issues of immigration, refugees and religion. The film will be directed by Ethiopian-born Zeresenay Berhane Mehari.

WHO James Franco

THE MOVIE “The Institute”

THE DEAL The actor’s latest film will be released in theaters and via video on demand March 3, according to Deadline. The story, set in 19th century Baltimore, follows a grief-stricken woman (Allie Gallerani) who voluntarily checks herself into the Rosewood Institute, only to find herself subjected to increasingly bizarre and violent experiments. The film’s newly released poster, which depicts a pair of red-painted eyes hovering over a spooky-looking building, bears the line, “Based on terrifying true events.” Franco is the film’s star, writer and co-director with Pamela Romanowsky.

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