"Straight Outta Compton" rapped its way to a solid $4.957 million in 2,264 theaters at the Thursday night box office, paving the way for a $40-$50 million opening weekend.
Universal and Legendary's latest music biopic follows the rise of N.W.A, a groundbreaking "gangsta rap" group that changed American hip-hop culture with hits like "F--k Tha Police" and "Express Yourself."
The movie directed by F. Gary Gray stars O'Shea Jackson, Jr. as Ice Cube, Corey Hawkins as Dr. Dre, Jason Mitchell as Eazy E, Aldis Hodge as MC Ren and Neil Brown, Jr. as DJ Yella. Paul Giamatti plays Jerry Heller, the manager of the group.
Both Cube and Dre produced the film with Eazy-E's widow Tomica Woods-Wright, Matt Alvarez, Gray and Scott Bernstein. Will Packer serves as executive producer of the film alongside Adam Merims, David Engel, Bill Straus, and Legendary's Thomas Tull and Jon Jashni. The budget was $29 million.
The other opener this weekend is Guy Ritchie's "The Man From U.N.C.L.E," which grossed $900,000 at the Thursday night box office. Warner Bros.' spy action film, which stars Henry Cavill ("Man of Steel") alongside Armie Hammer ("The Lone Ranger"), is based on the 1960s TV show of the same name, and is tracking for a debut weekend in the high-teen millions.
The Warner Bros. film is about a CIA agent named Napoleon Solo who partners with KGB operative Illya Kuryakin to fight a mysterious criminal organization, which is working to proliferate nuclear weapons. Alicia Vikander is co-starring. Producers include Steve Clark-Hall, John David, Jeff Kleeman and Lionel Wigram.
"The Man From U.N.C.L.E" has received a majority of positive reviews, with a 66 percent approval rating from critics counted on Rotten Tomatoes.
"Straight Outta Compton," on the other hand, boasts a strong 87 percent approval rating from critics, and is sizzling on social media, trending on both Facebook and Twitter this week. Marketing campaigns have been extremely prosperous for the studio although the film premiered in only Los Angeles. The "Straight Outta ?" meme went viral on social media -- a savvy marketing ploy for the film.
There aren't many films comparable to "Straight Outta Compton." The 2009 Notorious B.I.G. biopic "Notorious" opened to $20 million, but dropped off the table soon after, topping out at $37 million for Fox Searchlight. "Eight Mile" was based on the rise of Eminem and starred the Detroit rapper. It was a big hit for Universal in 2002, opening to $51 million and going on to gross $117 million domestically and $243 million worldwide. Ice Cube has had several box office hits, including "Barbershop" and 2014's "Ride Along" with Kevin Hart.
"Straight Outta Compton" doesn't shy away from N.W.A's penchant for confronting authority, particularly the FBI and the Los Angeles Police Department, which stepped up security for the film's Hollywood premiere earlier this week.
Whether anxiety over potential trouble, combined with a recent spate of theater shootings, will keep some moviegoers at home remains to be seen, but most analysts expect otherwise.