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Don’t pack up the cash registers just yet, Hollywood. There’s still some juice in the summer blockbuster season, as evidenced by the numbers being posted by F. Gary Gray’s Straight Outta Compton. The musical biopic got off to a fast start in Thursday night screenings, and is poised to enjoy a larger-than-expected opening as competition gets Outta the way.
According to Deadline, the N.W.A. biopic neared the $5-million mark on Thursday night, banking an estimated $4.96M in only 2,264 theaters. To give you a comparison, Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation played in more theaters on its opening Thursday (2,764, to be specific) and only earned $4M. This is also impressive give the film’s length. Straight Outta Compton carries a run time of 2 hours and 30 minutes, which will limit the amount of times it can be shown in each theater in a given day. But for its debut, it got off to a rocking start.
Reviews are helping. In his review of Straight Outta Compton, our own Nick Romano said that the movie began and ended on high notes as it recounted the formation of pioneer rap group N.W.A. – a band born out of volatile social situations that too many of us can recognize in today’s headlines. Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, Eazy-E and MC Ren rapped about struggles that they – and other black men – encountered with Los Angeles police officers, and I’m sure the sentiment is going to lure thousands of curious theater patrons into a multiplex to revisit the early days of N.W.A., and to connect it to our modern time.
There also appears to be a bit of tentpole fatigue settling in as the summer season draws to a close. In recent weeks, and pretty much all season, the top choice at the box office has been an action movie, from Rogue Nation or Ant-Man to Jurassic World and San Andreas. That’s to be expected, as audiences tend to max out on action during the summer months. But tasked with choosing between another stylish action exercise like this weekend’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E. or the musical biopic of Straight Outta Compton, you can understand why several audience members are starting to look for something different, for something that goes against the grain.
Finally, the drawing power of the music of N.W.A. should be enough to pack theaters this weekend. I love that we have a musical biopic for a band that’s still relevant, as past biopics have gone after dated acts like Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. Straight Outta Compton has something to say, and it’s going to "say" it to a whole lot of people this weekend.