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This story first appeared in the Aug. 28 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
After defying expectations with a $60.2 million opening weekend in the U.S., Straight Outta Compton will attempt to conquer the world. On Aug. 20, Universal kicks off an ambitious international rollout throughout Europe. It’s a significant effort as studios once considered black-themed films as having little overseas prospects. But Universal is so bullish on the N.W.A story’s appeal overseas that it will open Compton in 23 territories, including Britain (Aug. 28), Korea (Sept. 10) and Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates (Oct. 1). Discussions are underway in additional territories, where there is growing excitement based on the F. Gary Gray-helmed film’s U.S. performance. “In order to greenlight it [at a budget of $29 million], we had a conversation about its prospects internationally,” says Universal chief Donna Langley. “To us, it’s a very aspirational, very inspirational film — a great rags-to-riches story with a political component.”
Just three years ago, Fox’s George Lucas-produced Red Tails — about a crew of African-American pilots during World War II — was released overseas in only Croatia and the U.K., earning $489,000. Even Universal’s 2014 comedy hit Ride Along, co-starring Compton producer Ice Cube, took in only $19 million — or 12 percent of its $154 million worldwide total — in international territories.
But Compton could pave the way for other films with predominantly black casts. N.W.A enjoys a rabid following in Europe, where Universal is hoping to launch a reunion tour. What’s more counterintuitive is that the film — starring O’Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins and Jason Mitchell — will play in Asia and the Middle East. “There is a potential audience to reach [outside Europe],” says BoxOffice.com analyst Phil Contrino. “I don’t think anyone should assume it’s a North America-only kind of movie.”
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