Director F. Gary Gray‘s Straight Outta Compton — a biopic about N.W.A, the groundbreaking hip-hop group from Compton, California — should have no trouble claiming the box-office crown this weekend in another victory for Universal Pictures. Conservative estimates show the R-rated movie opening in the $25 million to $35 million range domestically, but it could easily climb higher.
The Universal and Legendary release goes up against Guy Ritchie‘s period spy-action comedy The Man from U.N.C.L.E., starring Harry Cavill, Armie Hammer and Alicia Vikander. Man from U.N.C.L.E., adapted from the 1960s MGM television series, is tracking to open in the high teens for Warner Bros. and Davis Entertainment. That would be a sobering start, considering its net production cost was north of $80 million.
Straight Outta Compton cost $29 million to make. Produced by former N.W.A. members Ice Cube and Dr. Dre (among others), the critically acclaimed 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. Dr. Dre will release a companion album — his first collection of new music in 16 years — timed to the movie’s opening Friday.
Straight Outta Compton, tracking strongest among African-American and Caucasian males, follows the rise and fall of N.W.A. The group played a seminal role in popularizing gangsta rap; their first album, Straight Outta Compton, sold 3 million copies and went triple platinum after its release in 1988. N.W.A, which stands for “N—az With Attitude,” also sparked controversy with its incendiary lyrics (such as, “a young n—a on the warpath, and when I’m finished, it’s gonna be a bloodbath of cops, dyin‘ in L.A.”) and incurred the moral wrath of media crusaders including Tipper Gore.
The movie’s international rollout begins next week in Slovenia.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E., also starring Hugh Grant and Elizabeth Debicki, is tipped to be a bigger player overseas than Compton, considering its internationally minded storyline and the fact that it takes place in Europe. Set against the background of the Cold War in the 1960s, the story follows a CIA agent (Cavill) and KGB operative (Hammer) who team to stop a crime syndicate intent on destroying the delicate balance of power through the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Warners has a close relationship with Ritchie, director of the studio’s Sherlock Holmes franchise. And he’s currently shooting Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur (July 22, 2016) for Warners. Cavill, of course, is the star of the studio’s Superman franchise.
Man from U.N.C.L.E. has been years in the making at Davis Entertainment, with various directors attached, including Matthew Vaughn, David Dobkin and Steven Soderbergh.