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People in the South are really into ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’

HANDOUT IMAGE:DAKOTA JOHNSON as Anastasia Steele and JAMIE DORNAN as Christian Grey in "Fifty Shades of Grey." Photo Credit: Photo by Chuck Zlotnick/Universal Pictures/Focus Features
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“Fifty Shades of Grey” hits theaters this week, and already it's poised to be a huge hit, with early ticket sales booming - particular in the South.

The Universal Pictures film, based on the best-selling erotic novel by E.L. James, accounted for 60 percent of all Fandango ticket sales this week and has become the highest-grossing R-rated movie in prerelease sales on the the movie ticket Web site.

A state-by-state breakdown shows movie goers in Mississippi, Arkansas, West Virginia, Kentucky and Alabama were the most eager to watch the film ahead and during the opening Valentine’s Day Weekend.

The film opens on Feb. 12 and the 8 p.m. showtimes are already selling out in Tupelo, Miss.; Florence, Ky.; and Chattanooga, Tn. Ticket sales of “Fifty Shades” in Mississippi are nearly four times the average pre-show ticket sales. In Arkansas and Kentucky, sales are 3 times the average movie pre-ticket sale.

The Midwest is also seeing huge demand for the film, with North Dakota and Iowa ranking in the top 10 states for presales.

Starring Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan, “Fifty Shades of Grey” explores the sexually explicit relationship between a college student and a businessman. The novel, part of a trilogy, was a massive hit with an estimated 100 million readers — mostly women. And early interest has been huge, with the movie trailer viewed more than 47 million times on YouTube.

“Fifty Shades of Grey” has been met with some controversy, with criticism over the bondage and violence depicted in sex scenes. The film reported has a full 20 minutes of sex. It’s been banned in Malaysia, where government officials have likened it to pornography.