When your hip hop biopic outclasses Tom Cruise and the fifth installment of a mega-franchise, and
nearly beats a Marvel movie at the box office, you know audiences are underserved and there’s an untapped market. There’s been talk all summer that Universal’s N.W.A. biopic, “Straight Outta Compton,” was going to score big with audiences, and the crowd-pleasing rags-to-riches story of a group of L.A. rappers who popularized gangster rap and changed the game of hip hop forever, did just that. Scoring a massive $56.1 $60.2 million opening — surpassing the opening of “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” and surpassing “Ant-Man” — “Straight Outta Compton” did gangbusters numbers; the film is now among the top ten highest-grossing R-Rated openings. In terms of music biopics, it smashed all records too. One of the biggest openings for a music biopic ever was “Walk The Line” in 2005, which grossed $22 million; ‘Compton’ posted numbers more than twice that ( it’s neck-and-neck with “ 8 Mile ,” which grossed $51.2 in 2002, but that’s technically not a biopic).
“Straight Outta Compton” is yet another big win for Universal, which has reached the $5.53 billion mark worldwide in 2015 — they’re the only studio to ever achieve that goal, and they’re blowing away the competition this year. What’s more, Universal has done it without one superhero franchise — though you could argue N.W.A. are the Avengers of hip hop. Instead, they diversified with action adventure tentpoles, animated films, dramas, and films like “Straight Outta Compton” — a movie that several studios passed on because they didn’t think it could justify its budget. What’s also remarkable is that the 2.5 hour run time didn’t deter audiences, and people also clearly came out in droves for a movie that features no big stars. ‘Compton’ will be a wake up call for studios (especially the last one that passed on it), reminding them once again that the African-American audience is sorely lacking in movies that speak to them and that they will turn out in full force when a quality movie arrives.
‘Compton’ is now the sixth-biggest August debut ever, and while studios will be scrambling to see how they can leverage similar grosses, the first thing that comes to mind is that the long-gestating Tupac Shakur biopic just got a boost and will likely get green lit soon (the Notorious B.I.G. had “Notorious” from Fox Searchlight in 2008, but it failed to light up audiences in the same way). Not even negative media reports of beefed up security deterred audiences, and that was surely a worry for Universal going into the weekend. Director F. Gary Gray is an industry veteran, but ‘Compton’ will surely give him a big boost; he’s already said he’d love to direct “Black Panther,” and surely Marvel has to consider this.
In contrast, Warner Bros.’ expensive spy film, “The Man From U.N.CL.E.,” was a big flop, failing to gross even $14 million in its debut. Made for $80 million (not including marketing), don’t expect a sequel, and chalk this up as an X for director Guy Ritchie and WB, who will probably go back to a “Sherlock Holmes 3” film instead.
The rest of the box office was rather unremarkable compared to the success of ‘Compton.’ ‘Rogue Nation’ only fell -39.3% in week three, scoring $17 million to grab the number two slot, and it’s at $373 million after three weeks. It feels as if, right now, the movie is trailing the grosses of its predecessor, ‘Ghost Protocol,’ but it has yet to open in Japan, China, Mexico, and several other big markets. Considering ‘Ghost Protocol’ played for 17 weekends, presumably it’s in it for the long haul, but nonetheless, a $694 million worldwide gross could prove hard to match. Speaking of China, “Terminator Genisys” will fail to reach $100 million domestically, but it’s grossed $323 million worldwide, and if it connects in China, where’s it’s opening up next weekend, it could easily cross the $400 million mark.
Things are not looking good for the embattled “Fantastic Four,” which dropped a massive -69% in week two, and scored just $8 million. Only at $41 million in the U.S., hitting $100 million domestically is not going to happen, and 20th Century Fox will likely have a big write-down over the $125 million film. As we’ve discussed, the studio needs to sit down for a very frank post-mortem as how to move forward without expensively rebooting the entire franchise again.
Joel Edgerton’s directorial debut, “The Gift,” only dropped -45.2% in week two, landing in the fifth slot with $6.5 million, which shows a good hold. The movie is already at $23.5 million, which is probably triple its budget, so it’s looking like a solid, if modest, win for studio STX. “Ant-Man” has grossed $336 worldwide, hit the $157 million domestically, and demonstrated a terrific hold, only falling -30.3% in its fifth week in release. The bad news is it’s still Marvel’s second-lowest grossing movie to date, likely will remain that way, and will not hit $200 million domestically (though it’s possible it might be able to beat some “Captain America: The First Avenger” numbers to become Marvel’s third lowest grossing film).
Universal’s “Minions” has done killer business, continues to prove the “Despicable Me” series is huge for family audiences, and is a key part of the studio’s banner year. The movie has surpassed the $300 million mark at home, and has grossed a massive $950 million worldwide. By next weekend, or the week after, it should crack the $1 billion mark — that will be Universal’s third movie cross that threshold this year, joining “Furious 7” and “Jurassic World.” Rounding out the top ten are “Ricki And The Flash” (almost $15 million after two weeks) and “Trainwreck,” which will crack the $100 million mark domestically next week.
At the indie box office, probably to no surprise, Noah Baumbach’s “Mistress America” won the weekend, scoring the highest per-screen average with $23k. Though we suppose it’s also fair to note that is much lower than the director’s last film, “While We’re Young,” which opened earlier in the year, but it also had Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts, so perhaps we’re even in that assessment. Things weren’t so great for the weekend’s other big indie release: “People Places Things” with Jemaine Clement only scored $31,000 from 19 theaters, for an incredibly low $1,632 opening weekend PSA. Let’s hope it finds it audience on VOD.
8/17/15: Universal’s early estimates were off, “Straight Outta Compton” actually made $60 million (via EW).
1. Straight Outta Compton — $60,200,000
2. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation — $17,300,000 ($138,437,000)
3. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. — $13,535,000
4. Fantastic Four — $8,000,000 ($41,961,000)
5. The Gift — $6,500,000 ($23,577,000)
6. Ant-Man — $5,517,000 ($157,568,000)
7. Vacation — $5,330,000 ( $46,852,000)
8. Minions — $5,200,000 ($312,969,000)
9. Ricki and the Flash — $4,570,000 ($14,656,000)
10. Trainwreck — $3,800,000 ($97,919,000)