“Straight Outta Compton” is headed straight to the top of the U.S. box office with an opening weekend of more than $40 million in its sights.
That should more than double the opening for Warner Bros.’ spy drama “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” which carries plenty of star power with Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer and Alicia Vikander.
The music biopic, focused on the groundbreaking rap group N.W.A, looks likely to keep Universal’s hot streak at the 2015 box office in tact following hits with “Jurassic World,” “Minions,” “Trainwreck,” “Furious 7” and “Fifty Shades of Grey.”
The most conservative estimates for “Straight Outta Compton,” co-financed by Legendary Pictures with a budget of $29 million, have placed the debut in the $25 million to $29 million range. Tracking is strongest among African-American and Caucasian male audiences but Phil Contrino, VP and chief analyst at BoxOffice.com, said the movie is showing plenty of traction in all demographics outside of the core fanbase.
Contrino said the most comparable entry into the marketplace came in January, 2009, when Fox Searchlight opened “Notorious,” starring Jamal Woolard and Derek Luke. The biopic of Notorious B.I.G. grossed $20.5 million in its opening weekend on its way to a $36.8 million domestic total.
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“‘Straight Outta Compton’ is looking like it will defy expectations of how a music biopic will perform,” he added. “There’s a lot of buzz on it. The marketing is being done in broad strokes with themes such as free speech that will resonate with the general audience.”
“Compton,” directed by F. Gary Gray, is launching in approximately 2,751 North American theaters on Friday. O’Shea Jackson Jr. plays his own father, Ice Cube, while Corey Hawkins stars as Dr. Dre and Jason Mitchell plays Eazy-E. Producers are original N.W.A members Ice Cube and Dr. Dre along with Tomica Woods-Wright, Matt Alvarez, Gray and Scott Bernstein.
The campaign launched with a spot in February’s Grammy Awards featuring Dr. Dre and Ice Cube revisiting their hometown of Compton as an introduction to the first trailer. Reviews have been impressive with a 92% score on Rotten Tomatoes.
“The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” which also stars Hugh Grant and Elizabeth Debicki, is set against the backdrop of the Cold War in the 1960s with a mix of the elegance and action of the early James Bond movies. It’s set in Europe, where Cavill plays a CIA agent and Hammer is a KGB operative who combine forces to battle criminals intent on using nuclear weapons.
The range of opening estimates go from $15 million to $20 million — a wobbly start for a film with a $75 million price tag. Contrino said “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” should do well among female moviegoers.
“Never underestimate the heartthrob factor,” he added.
Contrino noted that film also has decent potential in international markets. Warner Bros. is launching it day-and-date in 43% of offshore markets, including the U.K., Germany, Australia, Scandinavia and Spain.
“Man From U.N.C.L.E.” director Guy Ritchie is shooting “Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur” for the studio.
Holdovers will likely be led by the third weekend of Paramount’s “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation,” which has taken in more than $110 million domestically in its first 11 days.