When it comes to evaluating the financial performance of top movies, it isn’t about what a film grosses at the box office. The true tale is told when production budgets, P&A, talent participations and other costs collide with box office grosses, and ancillary revenues from VOD to DVD and TV. To get close to that mysterious end of the equation, Deadline is repeating our Most Valuable Blockbuster tournament, using data culled by seasoned and trusted sources.

Universal Pictures

In the diversity storm cloud that hung over the Oscars, Straight Outta Compton more than any other film was the one many said deserved a Best Picture nomination. But the odds that the picture beat in just getting made were pretty considerable. The project was originally developed by New Line, and when it was time to fish or cut bait, Warner Bros was at a moment where the priority was on global hits. The formation of N.W.A and its catalyst in turning hip-hop into an industry, that was seen by the brass as an “urban” film, with all of its gross limitations. But when director F. Gary Gray and producers Ice Cube and Dr Dre pitched Universal’s picture picker Donna Langley, she saw the movie a different way. To her, it was a cultural splitting of the atom zeitgeist moment, similar to The Social Network. Add to that the clear indication this film burned in the gut of Gray and his companions. Langley, emboldened by knowing she had plenty of global franchises coming in 2015, bought the project in the room.

Here are the costs and revenues as our experts see them:

When Straight Outta Compton opened, the trade press was rife with reports practically predicting there would be theater violence. That anticipatory tone was forgotten by the first Saturday and by the end of the opening weekend, Universal had grossed $60.2M on a $28M budget. Reviews for the picture and Gray were overwhelmingly positive. Much the way that N.W.A showed that unflinching honesty in music could fuel a new industry, Straight Outta Compton reminded that a good movie is a good movie. Sure, the picture didn’t make a nickel in China, and $160M of its $201M gross was realized in the U.S. But the low negative cost meant that Straight Outta Compton netted out at $91M for Universal with a 1.60 Cash on Cash Return. In a year when everything Langley touched seemed to turn to gold, Compton was perhaps the riskiest of all the films in Universal’s record year.