'Cars 3' revs box-office engines as Tupac fans flock to 'All Eyez on Me'

Racing to the top, Walt Disney Co.’s “Cars 3” unseated Warner Bros.’ “Wonder Woman” after a two-week box-office reign.

The Pixar picture grossed an estimated $53.5 million in the U.S. and Canada. It came in well below analyst expectations of $60 million.

Since its debut a decade ago, “Cars” has made its mark as an enduring series. Starring Owen Wilson as Lightning McQueen, the series follows the ups and downs of a hot shot race car looking to prove himself. The latest film -- the third in a franchise that has grossed more than $1 billion in combined global ticket sales -- also stars the voices of Cristela Alonzo, Larry the Cable Guy and Kerry Washington.

Such a performance is below its predecessors. The original “Cars” peeled out 11 years ago with a $60-million debut on its way to $462 million in worldwide sales. In 2011, the follow-up launched with $66 million domestically and ended up with a global total of $561 million. Still, “Cars” has become an enduring series and everything a contemporary entertainment conglomerate could want from a cartoon franchise: wide demographic appeal and a cute concept that easily feeds toy lines, apparel licensing and video games. It also seeded a pair of spinoffs about sentient airplanes. The Cars Land attraction at Disney California Adventure has proved to be a powerful draw since it opened in 2012.

As a bonus, the newest “Cars" has been relatively well-reviewed by critics, with a 65% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Audience feedback however -- moviegoers gave “Cars 3” an A CinemaScore -- has been the studio’s motivation to continue making animated sequels, something Pixar once avoided with the exception of movies like “Toy Story 2.” But the company has embraced sequels in recent years, to profitable results. “Finding Dory,” the sequel to “Finding Nemo,” became the second-highest-grossing movie of 2016 in the U.S. and Canada, behind “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” The studio also has a second “Incredibles" and a fourth “Toy Story” on the way.

In its third week, “Wonder Woman” landed in second place with $40.8 million. This brings its domestic gross to date to $274.6 million.

Fellow new release, Lionsgate-Codeblack’s “All Eyez on Me,” is the weekend standout however, pulling $27.1 million in its debut weekend. Though only a third-place finish, it far surpassed analyst expectations of $17 million to $20 million, an unsurprising feat considering the industry's historical inability to properly track films targeting black audiences.

“All Eyez on Me” is the long-awaited biopic about Tupac Shakur, the Harlem-born hip-hop hit maker who, in just 25 years of life, came to define a generation through his music, acting and poetry before that fateful 1996 drive-by shooting. Starring first-time actor Demetrius Shipp Jr., a doppelganger for the “California Love” rapper, the film is titled after Tupac’s final album released before his death. It also stars Danai Gurira as his mother and former Black Panther Afeni Shakur, Kat Graham as Jada Pinkett (Smith) and Annie Ilonzeh as Kidada Jones.

A film that according to producer L.T. Hutton finally got made because of the massive success of 2015’s “Straight Outta Compton” — despite countless biopics about black musicians doing well at the box office before the film charting N.W.A’s rise — “All Eyez” is an audience favorite. Moviegoers (53% male; 62% 25 and older) gave the picture an A-minus CinemaScore. Just about every critic review however is negative, leaving the film, directed by Benny Boom and shepherded through a 20-year gestation period by former Death Row Record producer and Pac confidant Hutton, at a 24% Rotten Tomatoes rating.

Landing in fourth place, after a disappointing domestic debut last week, was Universal’s “The Mummy.” It pulled in $13.9 million over the weekend for a domestic gross to date of $56.5 million.

Rounding out the top five was newcomer “47 Meters Down,” a shark survival thriller, with $11.5 million. It beat analyst expectations that it would sink at the box office with about $5 million in ticket sales.

The movie, starring Mandy Moore and Claire Holt as vacationers in Mexico whose shark cage drops to the ocean floor, was released from Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios to poor critical and audience reviews. Moviegoers gave it a C CinemaScore and it has a 55% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The only other major new release this weekend was Sony Pictures’ “Rough Night,” an R-rated ensemble comedy about a group of friends from college who reunite in Miami for a bachelorette party, which goes into cover-up mode after they accidentally kill a male stripper. The $20-million romp, starring Scarlett Johansson and Kate McKinnon, came in well below analyst expectations of $10 million to $14 million with $8.1 million, good enough for only a seventh-place spot. Despite the crowded cineplex this week, the film likely won’t rebound in the coming ones having only mustered a C-plus CinemaScore from audiences and a 51% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Next week, the box office will get more crowded as the summer tent-pole season continues with the Wednesday release of “Transformers: The Last Knight.”

Get your life! Follow me on Twitter (@TrevellAnderson) or email me: trevell.anderson@latimes.com.

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