With All Eyez on Me’s surprise $26.4 million opening, all eyes should be on the savvy deal that put distributor Lionsgate in the black two days after the film’s June 16 release and the onslaught of Tupac Shakur projects on the horizon.
In January, Lionsgate picked up the film in a prints-and-advertising deal backstopped by producer Morgan Creek. Any opening in the mid- to high-teen millions would have made it profitable for Lionsgate, according to sources.
Jeff Clanagan, president of Codeblack, the urban-focused Lionsgate division that released All Eyez, says social media was key to the film’s marketing strategy: “The real feedback is from Twitter. On Rotten Tomatoes, the reviews are bad, but consumer feedback is 80 percent positive.”
Despite the pans (and a thumbs down from Jada Pinkett Smith, who is portrayed in the film), director Benny Boom (ICM, Principato Young, Del Shaw) has quickly parlayed the film’s opening into a deal to helm indie LAPD thriller The Shave, based on a 2015 Black List script. Boom thinks that there’s plenty left in Shakur’s story to be explored onscreen.
“There could be an entire movie just on Tupac as a child, him and his mother, or just a movie about Tupac and Jada, period,” he says.
All Eyez’s opening bodes well for the projects on deck about the late rapper and his rival Christopher “Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace. In LAbyrinth, Johnny Depp stars as an LAPD detective investigating a possible connection in Shakur and Wallace’s still-unsolved murders in the late 1990s. Open Road has not yet dated that film, which wrapped in February. And Steve McQueen is directing a documentary that, unlike All Eyez, has the blessing of Shakur’s estate.
On TV, USA is shooting the drama Unsolved, and A&E will air the doc Biggie: The Life of Notorious B.I.G., the first project in its relaunched Biography franchise, and the undated six-part nonfiction series Who Killed Tupac? Says A&E programming head Elaine Frontain Bryant, “Both artists were gone too soon and are still resonating with a [new] generation. This is the first time someone has really dissected the conspiracy theories surrounding Tupac’s death.”