It wasn't your typical movie-night attire. You could spot them right away. They were tall and elegantly dressed. He brought his whip. She wore a tight dress and sexy high heels.
The dashing Fort Lauderdale couple, Jeff and Nina Hallick, were among the hundreds attending Thursday night's "Fifty Shades of Grey" premiere and VIP party at the Cinepolis Deerfield in Deerfield Beach.
Nina Hallick has read the book three times. "I own a hair salon, and for half a year, it's all everyone could talk about," she said.
Her husband nodded as he tapped her a few times with a long, black whip. "This was my gift for Valentine's Day from my sweet husband," she gushed.
Facials, chocolate-covered strawberries and wine are things you ordinarily wouldn't associate with going to the movies, but at the party, the finer things in life replaced popcorn and giant cups of soda. Lincoln Financial Media, which owns Miami radio stations 101.5 Lite FM, FM 104.3 and Magic 102.7, hosted the event.
Guests received swag bags containing novelty items from Hustler Hollywood, which helped sponsor the party, and raffle tickets for beauty treatments.
Before the film, women got massages and tried on makeup from Mary Kay, while their husbands and boyfriends watched pole-dance demonstrations by instructors from Coconut Creek-based Evette's Dance and Fitness Club. There was beer and wine, and snacks from Panera Bread.
"I'm having a blast," said Matt Holden of Deerfield Beach, who took his girlfriend to watch the film. "This is a different way to watch a movie for sure."
The movie is based on the "Fifty Shades" erotic trilogy by E.L. James, which has sold some 100 million copies worldwide. The book, self-published in 2011, quickly became an underground hit among women. It was picked up by Vintage Books in 2012 and became a global phenomenon. The second and third volumes were published in 2012.
Despite being skewered on late-night TV, the "mommy porn" trilogy exploded, even with its graphic nature and mediocre writing.
Lynn Whitefield of Pembroke Pines bought tickets three weeks in advance to see the movie Thursday night at AMC Aventura with seven female colleagues. "We've all read the books, and wanted to make sure we got in on time," she said. "I liked it because it's sexy, and believe me, even romantic."
The story follows shy and naive college student Anastasia Steele, who begins a relationship with handsome billionaire Christian Grey. But Grey has a taste for extreme and violent sexual escapades. He introduces Anastasia to his "Red Room of Pain," and eventually asks her to sign a contract to become his submissive partner.
"For me, the book is about wanting something you can't have. He's a rich, handsome guy, but picks this college girl to bring into his world," said Cindi O'Shea of Hallandale Beach. She plans on taking her boyfriend to see the movie Friday night at the Regal 18 in Hollywood. "He didn't really want to go to see a girly-girl movie. I told him it could be my Valentine's [gift]."
Although the film's release on the eve of Valentine's Day could have an impact on its popularity, the buzz around it began in 2013, when it was announced that actors Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan would play Steele and Grey. Johnson, daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson, is known more for her famous parents than for her roles in "Need for Speed," "Beastly" and "The Social Network."
In the weeks leading up to the movie's release, excitement grew on social media, radio, talk shows and magazines, boosting advance ticket sales. Critics said Dornan and Johnson lacked chemistry during the press tour, and many have called the movie boring. Even so, two sequels have already been greenlighted.
"You're either going to love it or hate it. But I think they got a good guy to play Christian [Grey]," O'Shea said.
On Thursday, hours before the film's premiere, Fandango.com listed it among its top five advance ticket-sellers, joining the ranks of "Harry Potter," "The Hunger Games" and the "Twilight" movies.
"I couldn't put the book down. It was riveting. I was always thinking, 'What's on the next page?'" said Jessie Davis of Miami. She came to the movies wearing a sexy black dress and Gucci jacket. Her date, Elvis Adan, wore a gray Chanel tie and suit, similar to what you'd see on Christian Grey.
"I need to read the book now," Adan said.