‘Cars 3’ revs box-office engines as Tupac fans flock to ‘All Eyez on Me'

Tre'vell Anderson, Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — Racing to the top, Walt Disney Co.’s “Cars 3” unseated Warner Bros.’ “Wonder Woman” after a two-week box-office reign.

The Pixar film grossed an estimated $53.5 million in the U.S. and Canada in its opening weekend, although it came in well below analyst expectations of $60 million.

Starring Owen Wilson as Lightning McQueen, the series follows the ups and downs of a hot-shot race car looking to prove himself. The latest movie also features the voices of Cristela Alonzo, Larry the Cable Guy and Kerry Washington.

Since its debut a decade ago, the “Cars” series has made its mark, grossing more than $1 billion globally. The original “Cars” peeled out 11 years ago with a $60 million debut on its way to $462 million in worldwide sales. In 2011, the follow-up launched with $66 million domestically and ended up with a global total of $561 million. And although “3’s” debut performance is below that of its predecessors, the “Cars” series is everything a contemporary entertainment conglomerate could want from a cartoon franchise: wide demographic appeal and a cute concept that easily feeds toy lines, apparel licensing and video games. It also seeded a pair of spinoffs about sentient airplanes. And the Cars Land attraction at Disney California Adventure has proved to be a powerful draw since it opened in 2012.

As a bonus, the newest “Cars” has been relatively well-reviewed by critics, with a 65 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Audience feedback — moviegoers gave “Cars 3” an A CinemaScore — has been the studio’s motivation to continue making animated sequels, something Pixar once avoided with the exception of pictures such as “Toy Story 2.” But the company has embraced them in recent years, to profitable results. “Finding Dory,” the sequel to “Finding Nemo,” became the second-highest-grossing movie of 2016 in the U.S. and Canada, behind “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” The studio also has a second “Incredibles” and a fourth “Toy Story” on the way.

In its third week, “Wonder Woman” landed in second place with $40.8 million. This brings its domestic gross to date to $274.6 million.

‘All Eyez’: The weekend’s standout, however, is Lionsgate-Codeblack’s “All Eyez on Me,” which debuted to $27.1 million. Though only a third-place finish, it far surpassed analyst expectations of $17 million to $20 million, an unsurprising feat considering the industry’s historical inability to properly track films targeting black audiences.

“All Eyez on Me” is the long-awaited biopic about Tupac Shakur, the Harlem-born hip-hop hit maker who, in just 25 years of life, came to define a generation through his music, acting and poetry before that fateful 1996 drive-by shooting. Starring first-time actor Demetrius Shipp Jr., a doppelganger for the “California Love” rapper, the film is titled after Tupac’s final album released before his death. It also stars Danai Gurira as his mother and former Black Panther Afeni Shakur, Kat Graham as Jada Pinkett (Smith) and Annie Ilonzeh as Kidada Jones.

A film that according to producer L.T. Hutton finally got made because of the massive success of 2015’s “Straight Outta Compton” — despite countless biopics about black musicians doing well at the box office before the movie charting N.W.A’s rise — “All Eyez” is an audience favorite. Moviegoers (53 percent male; 62 percent ages 25 and older) gave the picture an A-minus CinemaScore. However, most critical reviews have been negative, leaving the picture, directed by Benny Boom and shepherded through a 20-year gestation period by former Death Row Record producer and Pac confidant Hutton, at a 24 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating.

Others: Landing in fourth place, after a disappointing domestic debut last week, was Universal’s “The Mummy.” It pulled in $13.9 million over the weekend for a domestic gross to date of $56.5 million.

Rounding out the top five was newcomer “47 Meters Down,” a shark survival thriller, with $11.5 million. It beat analyst expectations that it would sink at the box office with about $5 million in ticket sales.

The movie, starring Mandy Moore and Claire Holt as vacationers in Mexico whose shark cage drops to the ocean floor, was released from Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios to poor critical and audience reviews. Moviegoers gave it a C CinemaScore, and it has a 55 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The only other major new release was Sony Pictures’ “Rough Night,” an R-rated ensemble comedy about a group of friends from college who reunite in Miami for a bachelorette party, which goes into cover-up mode after they accidentally kill a male stripper. The $20 million romp, starring Scarlett Johansson and Kate McKinnon, came in well below analyst expectations of $10 million to $14 million with $8.1 million, good enough for only a seventh-place spot. The film likely won’t rebound in the coming weeks, having mustered only a C-plus CinemaScore from audiences and a 51 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

This week, the box office will get more crowded with the Wednesday release of “Transformers: The Last Knight.”