But you read it electronically, right?

Photographer: Will Oliver/AFP/GettyImages

Bible Belt Loves 'Fifty Shades of Grey'

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It doesn't open in theaters until next week, but already the Bible Belt is snatching up tickets to see "Fifty Shades of Grey," according to Fandango.

To say that the film -- based on E.L. James's hugely popular erotic novel -- is much anticipated is an understatement. A Super Bowl spot bragged that the movie has received more than 250 million trailer views. Fandango says that "Fifty Shades" is "the fastest-selling R-rated title" in its history. (Both Fandango and Universal Pictures, which is releasing the film, are part of of NBC Universal.) The online ticket seller has also analyzed its advance sales data state-by-state and released a list of the top 10 states "where 'Fifty Shades' pre-sales are much larger than expected":

  1. Mississippi 
  2. Arkansas 
  3. West Virginia 
  4. Kentucky 
  5. Alabama 
  6. Louisiana 
  7. North Dakota 
  8. South Carolina 
  9. Iowa 
  10. Tennessee 

In 2013 Gallup rated first-place Mississippi the most religious and second-most conservative state in the nation. Fifth-place Alabama is the most Republican state, according to rankings the Hill released in October.

Perhaps we shouldn't be so surprised that people in the South like sex, too. Journalist Suzy Parker devoted a book to the link. And using data -- zip codes connected with credit card subscriptions to a leading online adult-entertainment seller -- from a roughly two-year period (2006-2008), Harvard Business School's Benjamin Edelman (now of Chinese-food fame!) analyzed subscription patterns and found the Bible Belt holding its own. 


Of course, in the professional opinion of the Motion Picture Association of America, "Fifty Shades" isn't pornography. It received an R rating (apparently, as planned). It allegedly only has about 20 minutes of sex (which actually sounds like kind of a lot). The male star has said movie-goers won't be seeing his … "todger" (look it up). Moreover, director Sam Taylor-Johnson doesn't "think it goes into the realm of porn." (Of course, Kim Kardashian's critical praise makes you wonder....)

Porn or no, Americans are not about to let a good commercial opportunity go to waste. Two New York City hotels have a "Fifty Shades of Grey" promotion. There's a Vermont Teddy Bear with mini-handcuffs. A bunch of stuff on Etsy. A Trojan parody. Target is selling official "Fifty Shades of Grey" adult products. (They were next to kid's toothbrushes in one store.) The sex-toy industry seems pretty excited.

And so, apparently, do lots of people in the Bible Belt.   

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Zara Kessler at zkessler@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
Francis Wilkinson at fwilkinson1@bloomberg.net