"Straight Outta Compton" continued its streak on top of the box office, and the faith-based drama "War Room" exceeded expectations with a No. 2 debut.
The N.W.A musical biopic fell 50% in its third weekend, adding $13.2 million. To date, the Universal Pictures film has collected $134.1 million in the U.S. and Canada, making it the highest-grossing musical biopic ever. It surpassed the $119.5 million lifetime domestic total of "Walk the Line."
"A movie like this is difficult to comp and we are out there with great hopes every day and we are pleasantly surprised by the results," Nick Carpou, Universal's head of domestic distribution, told The Times last week. "I think in this environment in the middle of August, it became even more noteworthy because it wasn't a default movie to go see, it was a reason to go to the movies."
Summer is winding down slowly, with most August newcomers failing to meet modest tracking expectations, with the exception of "War Room."
The film, from Sony Pictures Entertainment's TriStar label, was expected to open at between $4 million to $5 million. Instead, it did better than expected with an $11-million launch in 1,135 theaters.
"War Room" collected the most on Friday, with a $4-million haul. It went on to make $3.8 million on Saturday and an estimated $3 million on Sunday. Audiences, who were mostly female (60%) and over the age of 25 (85%), gave it an A+ rating on audience polling firm CinemaScore.
"It just had everything going for it," said Rory Bruer, Sony's head of domestic distribution. "It was really kind of catching that wave where by the time we released it this weekend it just really was so far beyond even our expectations with incredible screen averages of almost $10,000 per screen."
The faith-based family drama, which cost $3.5 million to make, is the latest from the Kendrick brothers, Alex and Stephen. It is Sony's fifth collaboration with the duo, who were also behind the 2008 Christian box-office hit "Fireproof," which cost just $500,000 to make but collected $33.5 million at the domestic box office.
"The Kendrick brothers are visionaries in this arena," Bruer said. "They have the pulse on what audiences want to see in a movie.
The box-office haul wasn't entirely surprising given the success of similar films in the past, including Bible-inspired films such as "Noah," Son of God" and God's Not Dead." According to movie ticketing website Fandango, "War Room" scored 70 out of 100 points on the "movie buzz indicator," trailing slightly behind "Straight Outta Compton."
"It's our relationship with the faith-based audiences across the country that has allowed Sony Pictures to maintain its longevity and continued success at the forefront of this business, and we're thrilled to see that continue with 'War Room,'" Rich Peluso, senior vice president of Sony Pictures, said in a statement.
Peluso said the partnership with the Kendricks "has been proven effective" because they are "intimately connected to faith leaders across the country and work hard to integrate themes within their movies that resound with these leaders and provide resources that allow the use of the movie has both entertainment and a useful tool to change lives and hearts."
Meanwhile, Paramount Pictures' "Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation" fell just 28% to No. 3 in its fifth weekend. The franchise film, starring Tom Cruise, added $8.3 million, making its total domestic haul to date about $170.4 million.
"No Escape," which began rolling out in theaters on Wednesday, debuted at No. 4 with $8.2 million, slightly less than tracking expectations. The Weinstein Co. acquired the action thriller, which stars Owen Wilson and Pierce Brosnan, for a mere $5 million.
"We were hoping to get to higher double digits over the five-day, but I think we are positioned pretty well heading into Labor Day weekend," said Erik Lomis, head of distribution for the Weinstein Co.
The gender breakdown for the film was fairly balanced, with male moviegoers making up 51% of the audience. Audiences gave the film a B+ on CinemaScore.
"The movie plays very well, which is why we chose to debut it on a Wednesday ... using the first two days as sneaks, so to speak," Lomis added. "I think that strategy paid off.... Our exit polls are particularly strong."
Also debuting this weekend, Warner Bros.' R-rated Zac Efron film "We Are Your Friends" made a disappointing $1.8 million.
The coming-of-age DJ drama was tracking to pull in around $10 million to $12 million. Warner Bros. paid just $2 million to acquire it.
Directed by Max Joseph (one of the filmmakers behind MTV's "Catfish" series), the film stars Zac Efron as Cole Carter, a 20-something aspiring electronic-music star. It costars Emily Ratajkowski of "Gone Girl" and Wes Bentley.
Audiences, mostly female (61%), gave it a C+ grade on CinemaScore and 43% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Labor Day weekend, the last official weekend in the summer season, is expected to be slow with just two new releases, "The Transporter Refueled" and "A Walk in the Woods."
However, analysts expect that the box office will pick up in the fall, with bigger film releases on deck including M. Night Shyamalan's "The Visit" and young-adult sequel "Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials." Year-to-date, the box office is up almost 6%.
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