N.W.A has done it again. Despite a supposed firestorm surrounding their biopic, this weekend Straight Outta Compton has sprinted 100 miles and ran away from the rest of the pack, stacking up $60.2 million in its debut at the box office.
Flaunting a mass appeal among audiences and critics alike, Straight Outta Compton rose above expectations to post blockbuster numbers. This is great, unprecedented news for a Black-centered and Black-driven biopic. What N.W.A symbolizes often functions as a Rorschach test.
For young people, N.W.A has always been a symbol of systematic rebellion. For Black audiences, N.W.A’s interaction with the police throughout the film speaks truth to the continued displays of excessive force from police, which has recently been spotlighted on the national stage but has always existed in Black communities. The moments involving the group’s interaction with police are by far the film’s most powerful. But for some movie theaters, Straight Outta Compton represented a clear and present danger.
Many theaters requested extra security and law enforcement for their screenings. Two theaters in Tampa Bay even refused to show the film this weekend, with City Councilman Wengay Newton, Sr. of Tampa Bay venturing out of his way to say, “Carmike also pulled it from more than 25 theaters across the country.”
According to Deadline, Universal Studios partnered with skittish theater owners for support if requested but also noted, “The film has been seen in hundreds of screenings, all of which have occurred without incident.”
“Enhanced” security should not just be centered on showings of Straight Outta Compton— “enhanced” security should be standard security nowadays after the recent shootings in Louisiana and Tennessee. In both shootings, the perpetrators were white men who were at movies starring white leads.
The request for beefed up security for Straight Outta Compton is déjà vu all over again— the same thing happened with Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing over 26 years ago. It seems time is a flat circle.
So, now that the false alarm has passed, director F. Gary Gray’s confident grasp and energetic interpretation of the material should now be the focus of media attention. A Black-driven biopic garnering big box office receipts should now be celebrated.