Jamie Dornan, Fifty Shades of Grey

Universal Pictures just turned Valentine’s Day 2015 into a sure thing for millions of men. The studio is moving its release date for the movie adaptation of the erotic romance Fifty Shades of Grey out of next summer and onto Valentine’s Day weekend 2015, turning what was sure to be a Girls Night Out event into an epic Date Night.

The news, reported exclusively in this week’s EW cover story, comes on the heels of the studio’s announcement that it has pushed the start of production in Vancouver back a month to allow for the production to prep with its new leading man, Northern Irish actor Jamie Dornan, who plays kinky billionaire Christian Grey. But, Universal says, the casting change is not the primary reason for the new release date.

More pressing is the crowded summer schedule Fifty Shades was originally competing in. Originally set to hit screens August 1, 2014, the film, based on the sexy best-seller by E L James, was set to go up opposite Marvel’s potential new franchise Guardians of the Galaxy starring Chris Pratt and Benicio del Toro. Internationally things are even busier, with many studios pushing their big tentpoles out of next June and July — to avoid competition from the World Cup in Brazil — and into August.

“We see this movie as a global event,” Universal Pictures chairman Donna Langley tells EW. “The strength of this book is really worldwide, so we want to be able to take advantage of women who are invariably on vacation with their families during the month of August in Europe.”

Now the film will debut on Valentine’s Day weekend, beginning on Friday, February 13, which also coincides with the President’s Day holiday, giving Universal the opportunity to post a big three-day number for that frame.

Langley, who was instrumental in bringing the Fifty Shades franchise to the studio, adds that Universal would likely have made the change even if Charlie Hunnam, the original actor cast as Christian Grey, had not dropped out in mid-October.

“Together with the international marketing and distribution team, we’ve been looking really closely at the August date and becoming more and more convinced that the right thing to do for the movie was to push it,” Langley says. “So even if Charlie had stayed, we still would have been making the date change.”

The film’s new date will put it up against the adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’ The Longest Ride, which has yet to begin production or hire a cast. Who knows, maybe the fear of competing with Fifty Shades will keep it away.

For more on Fifty Shades of Grey, including exclusive interviews with author E L James, director Sam Taylor-Johnson, and the full story behind the casting of Christian and Anastasia — plus which scenes from the book have made it into the script, and which have already hit the cutting-room floor — pick up this week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands Friday.

Fifty Shades of Grey (Book)
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