Everybody can be straight outta somewhere, and that’s fine with Universal Pictures.
An online marketing campaign for the rap-music film “Straight Outta Compton,” opening Aug. 14, is fueling what’s likely to be another big weekend for Universal Pictures, which has already set records this year with “Jurassic World” and “Minions.”
“It’s poised to really defy expectations for what a music biopic can do,” said Phil Contrino of Boxoffice.com. He said he will probably raise his $43 million U.S. forecast for weekend sales, making “Compton” the biggest debut ever in the genre.
The film, about the 1980s rap group N.W.A, is getting an online push from co-founder Dr. Dre, the studio and Beats by Dre, the headphone maker he sold to Apple Inc. in a $3 billion deal. The social-media tool created by Beats, called a meme generator, drew 4 million fans, attracting moviegovers who aren’t even fans of N.W.A’s music.
“I saw that meme so many times in my newsfeed, often from people I wouldn’t usually associate with rap music,” said Tobias Bauckhage, CEO of MoviePilot, which helps studios promote films.
The meme generator went live Aug. 5, according to the studio. Users fill in the blank on the “Straight Outta…” and attach a photo to share on Facebook or Twitter. The campaign also included a live YouTube interview put on by Universal Pictures on Tuesday, with the stars of the film and co-producers Dre and Ice Cube, another N.W.A founding member. Some of the actors wore Apple watches. Beats is producing “Straight Outta Compton” headphones.
Musical biopics, even about the biggest artists, seldom lead the box office. Why “Straight Outta Compton” could be an exception has a lot to do with Dre and Cube, who were instrumental in bringing the film to the big screen. They are credited as producers and were involved in casting the actors who played them.
Dre, still among the world’s most influential musicians, released a surprise album last week, his first in 16 years.
“Compton: A Soundtrack,” is available only on Apple Music and iTunes for two weeks. In the YouTube event Tuesday, Dre said he was inspired by working on the film.
“I just decided, one night on my way home from the set, I was just going to roll my sleeves up and start working on this album,” he said. “And I got to maybe a third song and I said, you know what, this is starting to sound great.
The effort snowballed from there, he said. “It came out exactly the way I wanted.”
Universal’s tracking shows “Straight Outta Compton” is gaining awareness beyond demographic groups like black and white males, the typical audiences for rap music.
Jennifer Lopez, “Straight Outta The Bronx” and LeBron James, “Straight Outta Akron,” are among the celebrities who have posted on social media. The meme has also popped up in subjects ranging from sports to politics – including “Straight Outta Touch” a tweet with a collage of Republican presidential candidates.
Based on current forecasts and a favorable rating of 92 percent from review aggregator Rottentomatoes.com, “Straight Outta Compton” should challenge records for a musical biography set by the 2005 Johnny Cash picture “Walk the Line.” That film opened with $22.3 million and generated $119.5 million in overall U.S. and Canadian ticket sales.
Contrino, BoxOffice.com’s chief analyst, said “Straight Outta Compton” could gross $117 million through its domestic theater run. The picture cost about $29 million to make, according to Universal.
The studio, owned by Comcast Corp., said it has generated worldwide ticket revenue of $5.53 billion through Aug. 5, more than the previous full-year total for any of its competitors and enough to ensure it leads the box office for the first time since at least 1998.
“Straight Outta (somewhere)” is just the latest tool for Universal, which has made tie-ins a crucial part of its summer film marketing. With “Minions,” the studio generated $593 million in ads and promotions with retail partners like McDonald’s Corp.
Universal got this one right from the start, with a teaser clip featuring Dre and Cube driving through Compton, said Liz Jones, a digital marketing consultant to film studios.
“You never know which campaigns are going to be the ones that everybody is connecting with,” Jones said. “This is the one that has consistently, across the summer, been performing. So simple. So perfect, they did a great job with it.”
With assistance from Lucas Shaw in Los Angeles.