"Straight Outta Compton" is expected to top the box office for a second weekend in a row as Universal Pictures continues to expand the film's theater count.
The musical biopic, which opened with a strong $60.2 million in the U.S. and Canada over the weekend, will likely add at least $30 million to its haul, according to people familiar with pre-release audience surveys. That would put it ahead of newcomers "Hitman: Agent 47," "Sinister 2" and "American Ultra," all of which are tracking to make less than $20 million each.
If estimates hold, "Straight Outta Compton" will help give Universal its 13th weekend on top of the domestic box office, following the success of recent tentpole films such as "Jurassic World" and "Minions."
"It seems that everything Universal touches at the moment is just golden," said Bruce Nash, founder and publisher of The-Numbers.com. "Their marketing department really is on fire, they just figured out how to connect with audiences with their films."
Universal, which co-financed the film for about $28 million with Legendary Pictures, is adding 215 locations, making the total theater count in North America more than 3,000. The studio is also rolling out the film overseas, starting with Slovenia and Norway this weekend. Germany, Britain and Ireland will follow next week.
The F. Gary Grey directed film follows iconic rap group N.W.A from its scrappy beginnings in the mid-'80s to its unlikely success and the death of member Eazy-E. N.W.A members Dr. Dre, whose real name is Andre Young, and Ice Cube, a.k.a. O'Shea Jackson, served as co-producers.
Most of the cast is relatively unknown: Cube's son O'Shea Jackson Jr. plays his father, Corey Hawkins plays Dre, Jason Mitchell plays Eazy-E, Neil Brown Jr. plays DJ Yella and Aldis Hodge plays MC Ren.
Moviegoers had overwhelmingly positive responses toward the film, giving it an "A" grade on audience polling firm CinemaScore.
Universal's diverse 2015 slate, which included a "Furious" franchise film and female-driven surprise hit "Fifty Shades of Grey," have propelled the studio to a record year. Earlier this month, Universal announced that it grossed $5.53 billion at the worldwide box office, marking the highest-grossing year for a studio.
"There is a broader range of films that have done well this year which is interesting," Nash said. "I think it's a good sign for the industry as a whole."
Of the new films out this weekend, 20th Century Fox's "Hitman: Agent 47" is expected to bring in the most moviegoers. Early tracking suggests it could make between $10 million to $16 million in its opening weekend.
The action thriller film, directed by Aleksander Bach, is based on a popular video game series. It stars Rupert Friend as genetically enhanced assassin Agent 47.
"Sinister 2," the R-rated sequel to 2012 supernatural horror film "Sinister," is expected to make about the same, with an estimated debut of $14 million to $16 million.
By comparison, "Sinister," which was released by Summit Entertainment in 2012, earned $18 million domestically at the box office its first weekend. The film went on to gross more than $48 million in the U.S. and Canada.
Gramercy Pictures, Focus Features' genre label, will release the Blumhouse Productions film in 2,758 domestic theaters. The sequel follows a mother and her twin sons after they find themselves in a house marked for death as an evil spirit.
Also in theaters, Lionsgate's "American Ultra," which stars Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart, is looking at a more modest opening of $6 million to $8 million.
For more news on the entertainment industry, follow me @saba_h