MONEY Travel

Spring Ski Lift Pass Deals Offer the Best Value on Snow

150305_EM_Ski_1
John W Banagan/Getty Images

Ski resorts around the country—and in New England in particular—have rolled out new springtime deals that promise tons of skiing for a relative pittance.

Walk up to the ticket window this weekend at Killington, the East Coast’s largest ski resort, and a one-day adult lift pass will cost a cool $92. For a little more than double that, however, the 1,509-acre Vermont resort is selling a special spring season pass that provides unlimited skiing for two months, or perhaps even more. Killington is known to stay open until June, depending on conditions, and the pass, dubbed the “Nor’Beaster” and priced at $199, grants lift access from March 14 until whenever the season ends.

Killington isn’t the only mountain with springtime lift ticket deals featuring seemingly screwy pricing. Okemo, just south of Killington, offers a Spring Skiesta Card for $99, allowing unlimited lift tickets from March 20 through the end of the season. Further south still, the $119 Spring Loaded pass at Bromley provides four days of skiing any day now through December 18, 2015. Considering that the walkup price for lift tickets at Okemo and Bromley go as high as $92 and $71, it’s easy to see how these passes can pay off in as little as two days.

How could it make sense for mountains to offer multi-day passes at rates that seem phenomenally cheap compared with the regular walkup price? Especially given that it’s been an absolutely amazing winter for skiing in the Northeast, and it sure looks like the record snowfall is leading right into a terrific, long spring ski season?

One explanation is that resorts are trying to eke out every last dollar from customers during a time of year when—regardless of how much snow is still on the ground—attention shifts away from winter sports toward golf, baseball, or pretty much anything that doesn’t involve snow and cold.

On the one hand, these resorts are theoretically losing money from guests who would have paid full price for several days’ worth of lift tickets during the spring season. On the other, the mountains are potentially cashing in from guests who are nudged into the upsell of a pricier pass, which they might not even use for more than a single day. As for those skiers and riders who do get the most bang out of their spring passes, they’re likely eating, drinking, getting tune-ups, booking hotels, and otherwise spending money that the resort probably wouldn’t otherwise see had the deals not been so tempting. If they get you to come back one more weekend than you planned on, that’s a win for the resort.

At some point, resorts are also simply compelled to offer super cheap spring promotions because that’s what the competition is doing. The mountains that don’t enter the game will lose the battle to woo a pool of skiers that shrinks smaller and smaller as the season comes to a close.

While cheap, end-of-season passes have grown particularly popular in the Northeast, there are plenty of deals out West as well. Oregon’s Timberline, for instance, is selling a spring pass with unlimited skiing and riding now through May 25 for just $99. Steamboat in Colorado, meanwhile, offers a “Springalicious” pass good for any three days from April 5 to 12, as well as a Double Dip Pass valid for unlimited skiing from April 5 at Steamboat and Winter Park/Mary Jane, starting at $169.

Multi-day passes are hardly the only kinds of deals waved in front of skiers to keep them coming back to the mountains in springtime. A common marketing strategy to get customers to pay up for season passes early is to let them ski for free in the spring on a pass that’s valid for the following winter. There are also wacky one-day deals aimed at attracting skiers for one last spring hurrah, like Patriot’s Day at Bretton Woods in New Hampshire, when a lift ticket purchased on April 20 not only costs just $17.76, it comes with a voucher good for a second day early next season.

Let’s also not forget that the vast majority of ski mountains now utilize dynamic pricing sites like Liftopia and GetSkiTickets.com to sell discounted tickets at whatever price the laws of supply and demand dictate. It goes without saying that prices at these discount sites are substantially cheaper in the spring than they are during peak winter weeks.

It also goes without saying that there’s rarely any reason to pay the full walkup price for lift tickets anywhere, no matter what time of year.

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MONEY Odd Spending

‘Spocking': The Weird Way to Ruin Money and Pay Tribute to Leonard Nimoy

To honor Leonard Nimoy and the iconic character he played on Star Trek, all you need is a $5 Canadian banknote and a black marker.

Sir Wilfrid Laurier was a prime minister in Canada from 1896 to 1911, and his face is featured on the Canadian $5 bill. Apparently, some feel his face also resembles Leonard Nimoy, the instantly recognizable actor who served as Star Trek‘s Spock, and who died last week.

Starting a few years back, someone thought it would be funny to take older versions of Canada’s $5 banknotes and artfully add some black ink to the profile of Laurier—darkening and extending the eyebrow, sharpening up the tip of the ear, scratching in a dark bowl-shaped helmet full of hair—so that the resulting image looked like Spock. (Another version of this game turned Laurier’s mug into Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series.)

Now that Nimoy has passed away, fans of the actor and the highly logical Vulcan he played on TV and the movies are being encouraged to “Spock” their Canadian $5 bills in tribute. The “Spock Your Fives” Facebook page—yes, there is such as thing, founded in 2008—has heralded the “revival” of Spocking Fives. As you’d guess, word of this curious activity has spread on social media, like so:

The parody Twitter account @PMLaurier—yes, there is such a thing—recently wished “Adieu to the great Leonard Nimoy” in a Tweet that showed one of the manipulated bills, noting that he was “Honoured so many Canadians thought we looked alike and would ‘Spock’ their $5 bills.”

As for where and how, exactly, the idea of “Spocking” currency first began, the “Spock Your Fives” Facebook page only has this to say: “The origins of this mysterious tradition are shrouded in secrecy, although it is widely believed to be totally awesome.”

MONEY Leisure

Disney World, Universal Break Ticket-Price Barrier

Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando one-day admission tickets are in a whole new world.

MONEY

Binge-Watch Every Oscar-Nominated Movie for $65 (or Less) This Weekend

THE IMITATION GAME, from left: Allen Leech, Benedict Cumberbatch, Matthew Beard, 2014.
Jack English—Weinstein Company/Courtesy Evere THE IMITATION GAME, from left: Allen Leech, Benedict Cumberbatch, Matthew Beard, 2014.

It's not too late to get up to speed on all—or at least some—of the movies up for Academy Awards this Sunday.

So you plan on watching the Oscars on Sunday (who doesn’t?), but because you haven’t seen many—or any—of the films up for the big awards, it’s hard to figure out who to root for. Most of the jokes and references in the show will probably go over your head too. First off, you’re in good company. For the most part, the films with the most Academy Award nominations in 2015 skew anti-blockbuster, with only one Best Picture candidate (American Sniper) crossing the $100 million mark at the box office.

Second, there are ways to get up to speed on this year’s Oscar-nominated movies in a hurry. The simplest strategy is to seek out one of the select AMC Theatre locations around the country selling special “Best Picture Showcase” tickets. One $65 ticket grants admission to marathon back-to-back showings of all eight Best Picture nominees, starting with Boyhood at 10 a.m. on Saturday, February 21, and ending early Sunday morning, after the credits roll for the final film, Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel.

The start time on Anderson’s film is … 3:45 a.m. And remember, the screening comes at the end of a movie marathon, following The Theory of Everything at 1:05 p.m., Birdman at 3:30 p.m., Selma at 5:50 p.m., American Sniper at 9 p.m., The Imitation Game at 11:30 p.m., and WHEW! Whiplash at 1:45 a.m.

This ticket is not for everyone. It wouldn’t be all that surprising that anyone who spent nearly 24 hours watching these films in a movie theater would wind up sleeping through the Oscar ceremonies on Sunday night. What’s more, while the price of admission breaks down to a reasonable $8 per movie, filmgoers should probably factor in $20, $30, or more in concession costs to make it through all eight movies. (The fine print on the AMC Theatre offer states: “Outside food and beverage is not allowed for this event. Limited seating. No passes or coupons accepted.”) Considering what you’ll be ordering at the movie theater—hot dogs, nachos, popcorn, Raisinets, giant sodas—you should plan ahead and factor in the cost of some Pepto Bismol too.

Sitting through a marathon showing at the movie house isn’t the only way to prepare for Sunday’s Academy Awards, however. In order to have a clue what host Neil Patrick Harris and everyone else is talking about during the show, you could utilize some combination of the following cost-effective strategies:

Buy tickets to a few matinees. Again, the $65 ticket breaks down to around $8 per film. Matinees and early-bird seatings at movie theaters are often cheaper than that. Plunk down $5 or $6 apiece for the two or three nominated films you really want to see in the theater.

Rent DVDs. Best Picture nominee Boyhood has been available for rent at Redbox locations for weeks. And while they’re not BP contenders, films up for other Oscars, such as Gone Girl (Actress in a Leading Role: Rosamund Pike), and The Judge (Actor in a Supporting Roll: Robert Duvall) are rentable as well. So are Animated Feature Film nominees Boxtrolls and How to Train Your Dragon 2, and The Lego Movie, which was robbed of a nomination in that category but is up for best Original Song (“Everything Is Awesome”). One day’s DVD rental from Redbox starts at $1.50, and there always seem to be coupon codes bringing costs down even lower.

Borrow DVDs. Your local library may have copies of Oscar-nominated films available to borrow at no charge. This is only an option for movies that were released in theaters many months ago. DVDs of The Grand Budapest Hotel, for example, first went on sale last June, giving libraries plenty of time to buy copies of their own and lend them out to locals.

Rent Online. Among other options, Google Play is renting films such as Birdman and The Theory of Everything for $4.99 apiece.

Video on Demand. Check out what Oscar-nominated movies are being offered VOD by Dish, Comcast, or whatever pay TV service provider you use. The prices and options are usually similar to what’s available at Google Play and other online services.

MONEY Travel

Millions of Families Will Soon Get Free Admission at National Parks

family sitting on the edge of the Grand Canyon
Jens Lucking—Getty Images

A new initiative called Every Kid in a Park will give fourth graders and their families free admission to national parks and recreation areas for a full year.

President Obama will be in Chicago on Thursday to designate the Pullman District as a National Monument. While he’s there, Obama will also introduce a very special program called Every Kid in a Park that will provide free admission to fourth graders and their families at national parks, forests, monuments, and other federal lands for a year.

The Every Kid in a Park initiative will be available to families at the start of the 2015-2016 school year, in advance of the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service being celebrated in 2016. How it works is that next fall, all interested families with fourth graders will essentially be provided with a free annual pass (normal cost: $80) granting admission to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites, including world-famous national parks like Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Grand Canyon—which each normally charges $25 to $30 per vehicle for a seven-day pass.

The program is “a call to action to get all children to visit and enjoy America’s unparalleled outdoors,” a White House press release explains. “Today, more than 80 percent of American families live in urban areas, and many lack easy access to safe outdoor spaces. At the same time, kids are spending more time than ever in front of screens instead of outside.”

Why only families with fourth graders? Presumably, it would be too costly—and likely, too crowded at the parks—to give free admission to everyone. What’s more, the thinking is likely that fourth grade is an ideal time to expose children to the wonders of the outdoors, with the hope that doing so promotes a lifelong interest and appreciation of nature.

The initiative actually has a parallel in the ski industry. Around the country, Vermont, New Hampshire, Colorado, and several other ski-friendly states offer ski and snowboard passport programs that typically provide a season’s worth of free lift passes for fourth or fifth graders. The concept makes sense because kids don’t go to the mountains alone; their families generally come along, and they spend money at the resorts. The program also obviously helps get kids interested in winter mountain sports, potentially turning them into paying customers for years to come.

Likewise, free admission will nudge families into visiting national parks and recreation areas. And ideally, the kids who go hiking and camping and whatnot will fall in the love with the experience, and become lifelong visitors and supporters of the parks and the great outdoors.

As for those who don’t have a fourth grader in the house, you’re not entirely left out of the freebies. Every year, the National Park Service lists a handful of fee-free days, when admission is free for all visitors. Last weekend, in fact, admission was free in honor of President’s Day. The next freebie event is the weekend of April 18-19, which kicks off National Parks week.

MONEY

What the Oscar Movies Can Teach Us About Money

The envelope please...

2015 Warrens Award
Leah Bailey

The Oscars do a fine job of honoring great movies. But who honors great movies about money?

No one—until now, that is. To accompany the 87th Academy Awards, MONEY is inaugurating its own prizes to commemorate 2014’s finest cinematic lessons in personal finance. We’re calling them the Warrens, in a nod to Warren Buffett, the shrewd money manager who’s also a celebrated dispenser of financial common sense.

Had the Warrens existed in past years, awards likely would have gone to movies like Blue Jasmine, for which Cate Blanchett won a 2014 Oscar portraying a woman whose life falls apart after her husband’s Madoff-like fraud is exposed. One key lesson from that movie: Don’t abdicate all financial responsibilities to your spouse. Another: Bad things can happen if your self-image is tied up in your net worth.

Another past recipient would have been the 2009 Best Picture Oscar winner, Slumdog Millionaire, which, despite its focus on a get-rich-quick game show, argues that love, not money, is the key to happiness.

So which 2014 movies win this year’s Warrens, and what lessons do they teach?

The envelope please….

— By Kara Brandeisky, Margaret Magnarelli, Susie Poppick, Ian Salisbury, Taylor Tepper, and Jackie Zimmermann

 

  • Best Argument for the Value of Education

    BOYHOOD, Patricia Arquette, 2014.
    Matt Lankes—IFC Films/Courtesy Everett Collection

    Boyhood

    In this Best Picture-nominated movie, Olivia (played by Oscar favorite Patricia Arquette), raising two children without their father, goes back to school to earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. That effort ultimately helps her land a dream job as a psychology professor. At a lunch celebrating her son Mason’s high school graduation, Olivia encounters a young man she once hired to install her septic tank and whom she had encouraged to go to community college. Turns out he did just that and now runs the restaurant where she’s eating. “You changed my life,” he tells Olivia. No, it was education that did it—for both of them. (For a guide to affordable colleges that have the strongest economic payback, check out Money’s Best Colleges.)

  • Best Lesson in Estate Planning

    THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, from left: Paul Schlase, Tony Revolori, Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, 2014.
    Martin Scali—Fox Searchlight/Courtesy Everett Collection

    The Grand Budapest Hotel

    In director Wes Anderson’s Oscar-nominated movie, famed concierge Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes) is willed a priceless work of art, “Boy With Apple,” by a rich patron of his hotel—who also happened to be his lover. The deceased’s progeny are none too pleased by this unexpected turn and go to great lengths to reclaim the valuable piece of art. This drama could have been avoided if the murdered Madame D (Tilda Swinton) had simply followed good practices in estate planning, such as identifying which possession should go to which people.

  • Best Career-Change Advice (tie)

    BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE), (aka BIRDMAN), from left: Zach Galifianakis, Michael Keaton, 2014.
    Alison Rosa—20th Century Fox

    Birdman

    Onetime movie star Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) sinks his life savings into a Broadway play to revitalize his career; the attendant pressures, financial on top of personal, pose serious threats to his mental health. One key takeaway: If you’re looking for a second-act career, make sure you have the resources to fund your new venture without having to make the drastic move, in Thomson’s case, of refinancing the Malibu home you promised to your daughter.

  • Best Career-Change Advice (tie)

    LETS BE COPS, from left: Damon Wayans, Jake Johnson, 2014.
    Frank Masi—20th Century Fox Licensing/Everett Collection

    Let’s Be Cops

    This buddy movie won’t win any Oscars — it scored a pathetic 30 of 100 on Metacritic—but it’s got our vote for job-switching smarts. Pals Justin (Jake Johnson) and Ryan (Damon Wayans Jr.) dress up as the fuzz for a costume party, find they like the attention their garb garners, and decide to keep up the act. After they get mixed up in a real crime, one of them—spoiler alert!— heads to the police academy. It’s a smart move to do a trial run on a dream second career. Not so smart: breaking the law in the process.

  • Best Performance by a Financing Campaign

    VERONICA MARS, Kristen Bell, 2014.
    Robert Voets—Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection

    Veronica Mars

    Spunky detective Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) transitioned from the small screen to the big one in 2014 to help clear the name of her hottie ex Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring). While fans of the cancelled TV show were delighted to see the Neptune High gang reunited, it wasn’t the contents of this film that earned it a Warren — it was the financing. Appealing to a rabid Veronica Mars fan base, Bell and show creator Rob Thomas launched a Kickstarter campaign to crowdfund the film. The effort paid off: The film stands as Kickstarter’s highest-funded film project, and the sixth-highest-funded project ever for the site. If you have a project you’d like to raise money for, start with these tips for a successful crowdfunding campaign.

  • Best Small-Business Strategy

    CHEF, from left: Emjay Anthony, Jon Favreau, 2012.
    Merrick Morton—Open Road Films/Courtesy Everett Collection

    Chef

    This indie hit isn’t just about food and family. It’s also about how to promote your small business on social media—and how not to. High-powered chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) makes a big mistake after joining Twitter, losing his cool and firing off a series of obscenity-laced tweets at a famous restaurant blogger. After Carl loses his job, however, his son Percy uses savvier social media posts in a wildly successful effort to promote Carl’s new venture, a Cuban sandwich truck.

  • Best Real Estate Recommendation

    NEIGHBORS, from left: Rose Byrne, Seth Rogen, 2014.
    Glen Wilson—Universal/Courtesy Everett Collection

    Neighbors

    Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne), adjusting to life with a newborn, suddenly have their lives turned upside down when a fraternity moves in next door. Frats throw parties—loud ones that make it hard for babies to fall asleep—and soon the couple and the frat engage in an escalating series of pranks meant to make one another’s lives unbearable. Don’t want to end up like the Radners? Make sure you follow these steps when shopping for a home, and find a good real estate agent who is extremely knowledgeable about the neighborhood where you’re looking.

  • Best Sales Pitch

    A MOST VIOLENT YEAR, from left: Oscar Isaac, Albert Brooks, 2014.
    Atsushi Nishijima—Courtesy Everett Collection

    A Most Violent Year

    In this movie from Margin Call director J. C. Chandor, beleaguered heating-oil company owner Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) coaches his sales force on how to close a deal. The key, he says, is projecting an aura of quality in even the subtlest of gestures—if a customer offers coffee or tea, for example, take tea because it’s the “fancy” choice. “We’re never going to be the cheapest option, so we have to be the best,” he says. “When you look them in the eye you have to believe that we are better—and we are—but you will never do anything as hard as staring a person straight in the eye and telling the truth.” Of course, sending a message about quality—whether or not it’s true—does something else: it gets people to spend more. That’s why we pull back the curtain on all the subliminal tricks that salespeople use to loosen your purse strings.

  • Best Argument for Having a Nest Egg

    THE GAMBLER, from left: Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, 2014.
    Claire Folger—Paramount/Courtesy Everett Colle

    The Gambler

    You’ve probably heard of the importance of building up an emergency fund in order to cope when disaster strikes in the form of a job loss, or perhaps a costly family health issue. The necessity of having a nest egg to fall back on takes quite a different level of importance in this film, in which a literature professor and severe gambling addict named Jim Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) winds up owing several hundred thousand dollars to various underworld characters. At one point, Bennett turns for help to another loanshark named Frank (John Goodman), who offers a brilliant lecture on why an emergency fund is so critical—only with a lot more expletives than the typical personal finance expert. “Somebody wants you to do something, f*** you. Boss p***** you off, f*** you! Own your house. Have a couple bucks in the bank,” Frank explains. “A wise man’s life is based around f*** you. The United States of America is based on f*** you.”

    It’s worth noting that there are also better ways to pay off debt than turning to loansharks. Assuming, of course, your life isn’t on the line in the matter of a few days.

MONEY Leisure

Casino Revenues Surge as Gas Prices Fall

MGM Grand Hotel & Casino Detroit at night, Michigan.
Benjamin Beytekin—dpa/AP Images

Long-struggling regional casinos have been enjoying a surge in gambling revenues, seemingly out of the blue. Could cheap gas have something to do with it?

Regional casinos—the kind that people typically drive to for a night, rather than fly in for the weekend—seem to have been victims of their own success. As casino revenues increased for years, more and more states wanted in on the action and began welcoming casinos and other gaming venues in order to (hopefully) haul in big bucks by taxing all the money streaming through these places. At some point in recent years, however, observers began worrying that many regions had reached a casino saturation point, the marker at which gambling revenues would level off because there simply aren’t enough customers around to keep throwing money at these establishments.

In 2014, many casinos saw revenues go flat, and a handful of casinos went out of business in spots that were once regional gambling magnets, Mississippi and Atlantic City. Yet as 2014 came to a close and 2015 began, the tables seem to have turned for many casinos around the country.

Five of the six casinos in the St. Louis area reported bringing in more revenues in January 2015 than they did the year before. Detroit’s three casinos collectively saw gambling revenues rise 15% last month compared with January 2014. Even in Connecticut, where the casino business has been on the decline for years largely thanks to increased competition, gambling revenues are on the upswing lately.

In Atlantic City, meanwhile, in January the eight casinos still in business took in revenues that were 19% higher than the same month in 2014. Even when the four A.C. casinos that were open in January 2014 but are now closed are factored in, Atlantic City’s overall gambling revenues are up nearly 1% compared with a year ago—and again, that’s with four fewer casinos to work with.

What’s behind the seemingly sudden surge in casino gambling? Many observers point to low gas prices as a key factor. The late 2014 gambling increase just so happened to coincide with ever cheaper gas prices at the pump. To many, this was no coincidence at all. In other words, the idea is that people have been taking the money they’re “saving” on cheaper gas and driving it on over to the slot machines and table games at their nearby casino.

In late January, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that two notable gaming analysts were forecasting rebounds in 2015 for regional casinos, in particular in the South and Midwest. “Several data points have developed which could point to the beginning of a recovery,” said Morgan Stanley gaming analyst Thomas Allen.

According to Allen, regional casinos have noticed that business has picked up especially among lower-income customers—the demographic that’s most likely to feel the impact of cheaper gas prices and, presumably, act on it.

Data cited by the Baltimore Sun, indicating that Maryland casino revenues have declined for two months in a row, might seem to blow a hole in the theory that cheaper gas is playing a major role in increased casino gambling. Yet Maryland’s casino revenues were soaring in late summer and autumn 2014 thanks largely to the opening of the new Horseshoe Casino Baltimore in August. It appears as if the novelty of the new casino has worn off, and indeed, Maryland’s revenues in December ($85.6 million) and January ($84.9 million) were down slightly compared with the all-time high hit in November ($90.2 million). In fact, Maryland’s overall casino revenues in January 2015 are up $18 million, or 28%, compared to the same month a year ago (when there was one fewer casino). So it’s too simple to state that the state’s gambling revenues are on the decline.

In any event, if there is some credence to the concept that low gas prices are giving local casinos a bump in business, these gambling havens may not be the beneficiaries of cheap fuel bills for long. If you haven’t noticed, gas prices have been climbing swiftly in February, although they’re still plenty cheap enough to justify a quick road trip. Now, where might you go?

MONEY Leisure

Movie Release Spawns ‘Fifty Shades’ Tie-ins

Fifty Shades of Grey fever is breaking records for online ticket sales and coloring everything from advertisers to sex toys.

MONEY Leisure

The Fifty Shades of Grey Stimulus

FIFTY SHADES OF GREY
Chuck Zlotnick—Focus Features/courtesy Everett Fifty Shades of Grey

The Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon will surely heat up movie theater box offices this weekend. Movie tickets are hardly the only things fans are being cajoled, teased, tempted, and otherwise seduced into buying.

The marketing campaigns and product tie-ins related to Fifty Shades of Grey range from the wholly expected (condoms, “toys” you’d never see in toy stores) to the puzzling (craft beer and marijuana-themed hotel packages), sometimes venturing down the path of just plain icky (S&M Teddy Bear). Among the categories banking on the arrival of Fifty Shades in theaters delivering a big sales stimulus:

Online Movie Tickets
Fifty Shades of Grey was considered a hit at the box office a full month before being released in theaters. It achieved status as the fastest-selling R-rated movie in the history of online sales four weeks ago at Fandango, and Fifty Shades alone constituted 60% of advance sales at the site on Tuesday, February 3. Advance sales have been particularly hot in Bible Belt states such as Mississippi, Arkansas, West Virginia, and Alabama.

This week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Fifty Shades has become Fandango’s fourth best seller for online tickets prior to opening weekend—behind only films from storied franchises “The Hunger Games,” “Harry Potter,” and “Twilight”—and that the phenomenon could even help get filmgoers more into the habit of buying movie tickets before showing up at the theater.

BoxOffice.com is predicting that that the movie’s four-day gross at theaters will be a whopping $95 million, offering this insight as to why Fifty Shades is bound to draw such in epic crowds: “To be blunt, curiosity and sex sell—even, and perhaps especially, to those who are reluctant but simply want to know what the fuss is all about.”

Movie Theater Advertising
According to AdAge, the arrival of Fifty Shades of Grey at theaters has prompted several brands that have never advertised during movie previews to jump into the game. Calvin Klein Jeans and the apparel retailer Vibez are showing their first-ever commercials before the film in the U.K., while brands like Revlon and Renault are also advertising at movie houses before customers start watching Fifty Shades.

Alcohol
Fifty Shades of Grey wine hit the market two years ago, and it’s “hardly been a best-seller,” liquor store owners recently told Marketplace. Still, the arrival of the film should certainly help boost sales of Fifty Shades-branded White Silk and Red Silk wine, if only for the sake of kitsch.

Meanwhile, plenty of bars and restaurants have concocted special Fifty Shades of Grey cocktails that’ll surely be best sellers in certain circles. The luxury movie theater chain iPic, which features oversized leather recliners and, in the premium section, pillows, blankets, and iPads for ordering food and drink, has created a cocktail especially for the film called the “Red Room of Pain.” The drink is made with hibiscus, ginger rum, and rose petals. “It’s a decadent, slightly naughty cocktail while you’re watching the movie,” an iPic mixologist said to the Miami Herald. “I think we’ll sell a gazillion of them.”

There’s even a new limited-edition Fifty Shades of Grey craft beer that incorporates 50 different hops and other ingredients that supposedly have aphrodisiac qualities. It’s selling for $46 a bottle.

Adult Toys, Hardware Supplies
The New York Times recently reported that the success of the Fifty Shades books resulted in a sizeable increase in sales of once-obscure sex-themed products, and that the film’s release is expected to bring about a second wave of “adult toy” sales. Perhaps what’s most surprising of all is that some of these Fifty Shades-themed products are being sold by mainstream retailers like Target and (in England) Tesco. Another British retailer, hardware store B&Q, has alerted staffers to become familiar with Fifty Shades, be sensitive about inquiries into seemingly odd product inquiries, and to “monitor stock levels of rope, cable ties, masking tape and [duct] tape to ensure that supplies do not run low.”

In related news, authorities in London have expressed concern that the release of the film is likely to lead to a spike in emergency calls from couples trying to imitate what they see on the screen. “The Fifty Shades effect seems to spike handcuff incidents so we hope film-goers will use common sense and avoid leaving themselves red-faced,” a London Fire Brigade official said.

Condoms
Naturally, condom manufacturers have had some fun with Fifty Shades. Trojan released this hilarious ad online showing a couple’s slapstick attempts to channel their inner Christian Grey and Steele, and the commercial is also being shown in theaters before the film:

Hotel Packages
Hotels in Portland, Ore., (where Fifty Shades is set) and South Florida, among other spots, are offering Fifty Shades-themed guest packages with amenities like a gray silk tie, Champagne, chocolates, and “a sensual love kit.”

Meanwhile, in Denver, the Curtis Hotel has a deal that would only make sense in Colorado, or perhaps Washington—the two states where recreational marijuana is legal. The “totally dope package” that goes by then name “Fifty Shades of Green” costs $420—a number that means something to cannabis enthusiasts—and includes two movie passes, roses, and in-room munchies like brownies and Cheetos. Curiously, like most hotels, the Curtis is a completely nonsmoking property.

Teddy Bears
Perhaps the strangest and creepiest tie-in of all is the Fifty Shades of Grey Bear being sold by the Vermont Teddy Bear Company. The bear “features smoldering eyes, a suit and satin tie, mask – even mini handcuffs,” along with the understated warning: “Contains small parts. Not suitable for children.”

The Actual Book
Many of the reviews of Fifty Shades the movie say that it’s better than Fifty Shades the book—which isn’t saying much, considering what awful things people said of the writing.

Nonetheless, as with most film releases, the arrival of Fifty Shades in theaters looks like it is helping renew interest in the book. Fifty Shades of Grey has been in the top five of the New York Times Best Sellers for the past two weeks. Prior to that, it hadn’t been in the top five in terms of overall print and e-book fiction for quite some time.

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