Ahead of the film’s premiere, Universal Studios is “partnering” with movie theaters that request support during screenings of NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton. Specific details are scant, and we’re hearing that the matter isn’t as simple as the studio outright reimbursing theaters for any costs associated with heightened security, but sources say this may make up a component of these partnerships.
For its part, Universal is downplaying the extent to which it is involved in any beefed up security, and is standing behind the film. “Universal is proud of our association with Straight Outta Compton, which vividly portrays the rise of five talented young men from underprivileged and oppressed backgrounds into one of the most influential acts in modern music history,” Universal said in a statement. “The film has been seen in hundreds of screenings, all of which have occurred without incident. The Studio has not solicited enhanced security for theaters that will be showing the film this weekend, but has partnered with those exhibitors who’ve requested support in their locations.”
Though it’s been nearly 25 years since the group’s dissolution, NWA lyrics remain polarizing and relevant, particularly in light of the still-brewing conflict over police tactics in poor, mainly minority communities – in fact, recent public demonstrations have seen people chanting the lyrics to NWA’s “F*ck Tha Police”. As such, some observers have wondered if the current atmosphere may bring similarities to screenings of films like Boyz In The Hood, which saw several shootings in 1991 during the peak of American gang violence.
That climate is complex enough, but lingering fears also remain over the deadly Lafayette, Louisiana movie theater shooting during a showing of the Amy Schumer comedy Trainwreck in July. That attack left three dead (including the shooter), and nine injured, and has sparked renewed debate over guns and security in public spaces. Subsequently, in many parts of the country theater owners concerns are heightened, a fact Universal appears to be taking very seriously.
Despite these concerns, Straight Outta Compton is expected to dominate the box office this weekend.
Straight Outta Compton chronicles the rise, fall, and lasting impact of seminal rap group, Compton, California-based NWA, comprised of Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, DJ Yella, Mc Ren, and Eazy-E. During NWA’s lifetime they were a lightning rod for criticism – they also sold millions of records, codifying the gangsta rap genre in the process. (Worth noting however that the group preferred the term “reality rap”.) Though NWA imploded amid infighting over artistic and financial issues, the individual members, particularly Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, would go on to define west coast hip hop and push rap music into the permanent mainstream.
Produced by Dre, Cube, Tomica Woods-Wright, Matt Alvarez, F. Gary Gray, and Scott Bernstein, and directed by Gray, Straight Outta Compton stars Ice Cube’s son O’Shea Jackson Jr., Jason Mitchell, Corey Hawkins, and Paul Giamatti.