The premiere of the rap biopic "Straight Outta Compton" went all gangsta on the Friday box office, riding strong reviews and favorable crowd reaction as parent studio Universal raced to an all-time box office record.
Meanwhile, Warner Bros.' reboot of the 1960s TV spy franchise "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." -- the only other major studio opener this weekend -- espied a disappointing premiere in third place and now has a tough case ahead in theaters, at least in the U.S.
The No. 2 spot went to the Tom Cruise carryover "Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation," with a $4.9 million pull. Through 15 days of release, the action sequel has earned more than $126 million.
"Compton," which tells the story of the groundbreaking hip-hop group N.W.A, rapped to the beat of a robust $24.2-million Friday haul at 2,757 screens, according to boxofficemojo.com.
That put "Compton" on track for a weekend haul of at least $55 million, well exceeding the projections of analysts who had pegged the film to notch about $45 million over the three-day period. It will wind up one of the best August openings ever, a particularly impressive accomplishment for an R-rated film.
It also meant that Universal now holds the studio record for reaching the $2-billion mark in cumulative year-to-date domestic box office in record time. That mark was previously held by Warner Bros., which set the record in 2009.
Rap's legacy of violence led to worries that "Compton" screenings could be marred by troubles at theaters; some exhibitors said they were beefing up security as a result. But reviews of the movie have been very strong, with an 88% rating on critical aggregation site rottentomatoes.com. There will be positive word-of-mouth ahead too: The movie earned a full "A" from viewers interviewed by Cinemascore.
The news wasn't as nice for "U.N.C.L.E.," which failed to spur much attendance despite a name-brand franchise and an extensive PR campaign.
Warner rolled out the movie wide on 3,638 screens and was rewarded with an anemic $1,337 per-screen average. The reviews were decent, if not world-beating, for an average of 68% on rottentomates.
One problem: The 1964-69 TV series that provided the movie's inspiration is a cultural touchstone for boomers, but has not been on the radar of their kids and grandkids, who are much more familiar with the James Bond series. The fact that "Mission Impossible" is still lighting up marquees probably didn't help either.
Fox's critically savaged "Fantastic Four" grabbed the No. 4 spot with $2.4 million; the big-budget superhero picture -- with a final cut famously disowned by its director in a hastily-removed tweet -- is on track to be one of the year's biggest bombs, with a $36-million haul so far.
Rounding out the top 5 is the thriller "The Gift," which has received more than $19 million through eight days of release. With a reported production budget of $5 million, the movie looks like a gift indeed for distributor STX Entertainment.
Among other items of note in the top 10:
- Universal's animated smash "Minions" (No. 8) has blown well past the $300 million-mark through 36 days and is one of the year's biggest hits.
- Amy Schumer's breakout comedy "Trainwreck" (No. 10) should chug past the $100-million landmark in the next few days.
- Meryl Streep's "Ricki and the Flash" looks to be having trouble generating heat on the charts. Through eight days of release, the tale of an aging rock musician drew just $1.3 million at 2,064 screens, for a modest $642 per-screen average. Audiences have been underwhelmed, giving the movie a "B" Cinemascore grade.