Swaggering into theaters across North America, Straight Outta Compton beat all expectations, grabbing an estimated $56.1 million -- and leaving The Man from U.N.C.L.E., the weekend's other new wide release, which pulled in a meager $13.5 million, in its dust.
Universal's R-rated Compton, the biopic about the groundbreaking hip-hop group N.W.A, produced for just $29 million, posted a best-ever opening for its director F. Gary Gray and overshadowed other rap movies like Eminem's 8 Mile, which bowed to $51.2 million in 2002, and Notorious, the story of Notorious B.I.G., which opened to $20.5 million in 2009. The film could also claim the best August opening for an R-rated movie as well as the top opening for a musical biopic.
African-American moviegoers comprised the largest share of the audience -- 46 percent -- the studio reported, but Compton also demonstrated real cross-over appeal with Caucasians making up 21 percent; Hispanics, 21 percent; Asians, four percent; and others, six percent. Age-wise, the movie brought in an even mix of older and younger moviegoers with 51 percent over age 30 and 49 percent under. Similarly, it broke fairly evenly among men and women, with women accounting for 52 percent of the audience, and men, 48 percent. Overall, audiences awarded the film an A CinemaScore.
Noting the movie's wide appeal, Nick Carpou, Universal president of domestic distribution, said, "Our marketing department incentivized people of all ages to check the movie out. We always approached this as going after the most mainstream audience that we could." It didn't hurt either that the movie's producers have big social media followings. "When you've got the principals behind the film followed by as many people as they are, that's an extra factor," Carpou noted. Ice Cube, for example, has 2.4 million Twitter followers, and he tweeted this morning, "Thank you for making us #1 this weekend."
Interestingly, given the old West Coast-East Coast rap rivalry, Compton performed most strongly in and around Los Angeles. While the movie's biggest theater haul came from the Regal Atlantic Station Stadium in Atlanta, nine of the top-10 performing theaters were in the L.A. area -- ranging from the Regal Cinemas L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles to the Arclight Cinemas in Hollywood and Sherman Oaks, the AMC Orange 30 in Orange and the AMC Ontario Mills 30 in Ontario. Although Carpou also pointed out that the movie over-indexed in locations as various as Baltimore, Memphis, St. Louis, San Francisco and even Palm Springs.
While Universal had quietly agreed to provide extra support for theaters that decided to add extra security, the screenings across the country also appeared to go off without incident.
Co-financed by Universal and Legendary, the film stars O'Shea Jackson Jr. as his real-life father, Ice Cube; Corey Hawkins as Dr. Dre; Jason Mitchell as Eazy-E; Aldis Hodge as MC Ren and Neil Brown Jr. as DJ Yella. Opening in 2,767 theaters, it was produced by former N.W.A members Ice Cube and Dr. Dre (among others). Ice Cube, the producer, managed to beat his own best-opening as a lead actor, 2014's Ride Along, which opened to $41.5 million.
The movie got a boost from a strong marketing campaign, which include a "Straight Outta...Your Hometown" Internet meme that went viral as well as the release of Compton, Dr. Dre's first album in 14 years.
The sixth number one opening for Universal this year, the movie also boosted the studio's 2015 domestic gross above the $2 billion mark on Saturday, the shortest amount of time in a calendar year that any studio has ever hit that mark.
Warner Bros. PG-13-rated period spy tale The Man From U.N.C.L.E. didn't strike much of a nostalgic chord among moviegoers as it was unveiled in 3,638 locations. The movie, which cost $80 million-plus to produce, arrived in third place, behind the more muscular spy outing Mission: Impossible -- Rogue Nation. The Paramount release, starring Tom Cruise, ranked second for the weekend, its third in release, with $17 million, bringing it domestic total to $138 million.
Directed by Guy Ritchie, U.N.C.L.E., from Warners and Davis Entertainment, stars Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer as a CIA agent and a KGB operative who work on a joint mission against a mysterious criminal organization. The movie got a B CinemaScore from its opening weekend audience.
Among the movies entering their second weekend, Fox's superhero reboot Fantastic Four dropped by a steep 69 percent, taking in $8 million to bring its cumulative purse to $41.9 million as it settled into the fourth place slot. In fifth place, STX's thriller The Gift had a better hold, dropping 45 per cent as it collected $6.5 million, bringing its take to $23.6 million. And in ninth place, Sony's Ricki and the Flash, starring Meryl Streep, held on with just a 31 percent drop as it attracted $4.6 million, bringing its cume to $14.7 million.
On the specialty front, Fox Searchlight launched Mistress America, Noah Baumbach's latest comedy starring Greta Gerwig, which took in $94,000 in four theaters, an encouraging $23,500-per-theater average.
This article originally appeared in THR.com.