'Straight Outta Compton': How August release dates are helping movies

The great box office performance of 'Compton' was largely fueled by the popularity of the hip-hop group N.W.A., but the fact that studio Universal Pictures released the movie in August may also have helped. 

Jaimie Trueblood/Universal Pictures/AP
'Straight Outta Compton' stars Corey Hawkins.

“Straight Outta Compton,” the film adaptation of the story of how the seminal hip-hop group N.W.A. came to be, triumphed at the box office over this past weekend, grossing more than $60 million. 

“Compton” did even better than expected financially and also received positive reviews. The movie stars actors including O’Shea Jackson Jr. (son of N.W.A. former member Ice Cube) and Corey Hawkins.

What caused its financial success? Strong reviews helped, of course, and N.W.A. is still often called one of the most influential hip-hop groups of all time. Their album, also titled “Straight Outta Compton,” is hailed as one of the most important of the genre. Considering recent events, moviegoers may have also wanted to take another look at the group’s songs, which famously discuss racial tensions in America.

But was the August release date of “Compton” also a factor in its box office success?

The summer movie season is always a high-profile time but August is often considered a sleepier interval in the movie business. While July, for example, included the arrivals of the sci-fi reboot “Terminator: Genisys”; the anticipated sequels “Magic Mike XXL” and “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation”; the animated movie “Minions”; the comedies “Trainwreck,” “Pixels,” and “Vacation”; the Marvel superhero film “Ant-Man”; and the young adult film “Paper Towns,” this August is much quieter. So far, the superhero movie “Fantastic Four," the Meryl Streep musical film “Ricki and the Flash,” and the action movie “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” have been released. The big upcoming releases include the action movie “Hitman: Agent 47” and the comedy “American Ultra.”

So “Compton” most likely benefited from a lack of rivals at the box office. Its main competition this past weekend was the 1960s spy caper “U.N.C.L.E.,” which was obviously a very different film and was hampered by negative reviews besides. “Ricki” and the thriller “The Gift,” both of which opened this past weekend, are more low-profile films and didn’t threaten “Compton” much. 

Studios are no doubt beginning to look at August with more interest. The Marvel superhero movie “Guardians of the Galaxy” came out in August of last year and became the third-highest-grossing movie of the year. In fact, almost all of the best August openings of all time are within the last 10 years. “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” bowed in August 2014 and did well, while 2011’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” triumphed in the later days of summer as well. Other recent August successes include 2007’s “The Bourne Ultimatum,” 2009’s “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra,” 2007’s “Rush Hour 3,” and 2006’s “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.”

There are already a couple of high-profile releases on the schedule for next August, including the comic book movie “Suicide Squad” and the Disney remake “Pete’s Dragon.” 

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