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Universal Pictures will help pay for extra security in some theaters playing director F. Gary Gray‘s Straight Outta Compton, the critically acclaimed biopic about N.W.A that opens in North America this weekend.
“The studio has not solicited enhanced security for theaters who will begin showing it this weekend, but has partnered with those exhibitors who have requested support for their locations,” a Universal spokesman said in the studio’s first public comment on the matter, noting that the movie has been seen by thousands in hundreds of pre-release screenings across the country without incident.
Universal declined to say whether that support involves paying for extra security, but numerous sources say that is indeed the case.
It isn’t the first movie with gang themes that has prompted some theater owners to take extra measures. Security was also increased for Boyz n the Hood and more recently, Notorious, a biopic about rapper Biggie Smalls. (There were several incidents of violence associated with screenings of both movies on their opening weekends.)
Straight Outta Compton — which is expected to do big business — opens at a particularly sensitive time in terms of theater violence. Last month, a Louisiana man randomly killed two women during a screening of Trainwreck before shooting himself. And earlier this month, a man in Tennessee with a hatchet and a pellet gun sprayed pepper spray during a showing of Mad Max: Fury Road.
The extra measures involve hiring additional security officers in some theaters in larger cities, according to numerous sources. Universal did not disclose which theaters it is working with.
Gray’s movie is expected to do sizeable business, and is opening in more than 2,700 theaters, the widest footprint ever for a rap-themed movie, and the third widest for any music biopic after Walk the Line and Jersey Boys. Some even think it could debut to $40 million-$50 million, but Universal is being more cautious in saying $25 million-$30 million.
Produced by former N.W.A. members Ice Cube and Dr. Dre (among others), Straight Outta Compton 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 on Friday.
“The studio is proud of our association with Straight Out of Compton, which portrays the rise of five talented young men from underprivileged and oppressed backgrounds into one of the most influential music groups in modern history,” the Universal spokesman said.
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—z With Attitude,” also sparked controversy with its incendiary lyrics (such as, “a young n— 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.
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