Giving new meaning to the phrase good buzz, MGM’s $15 million-budgeted Barbershop flipped a few wigs with a surprise $21 million haul on opening weekend. That’s a record debut for star Ice Cube and one of the most impressive openings ever for a comedy featuring a mostly African-American cast.

Refreshingly, the movie’s appeal was as wide-ranging as Cedric the Entertainer’s unruly do. MGM estimates that at least 30 percent of ticket buyers were white — perhaps reflecting the studio’s late realization of Barbershop’s mainstream potential. After initially planning to open the movie on a modest 1,200-1,300 screens, MGM decided to expand the release to 1,600 in late August after a highly positive test screening with a primarily white audience. What’s more, members of the large cast — which includes Eve (XXX) and Sean Patrick Thomas (Save the Last Dance) — made appearances not just on BET’s 106 & Park but also on The Tonight Show and Live With Regis and Kelly.

Cube was clearly pleased with the studio’s efforts. ”They did what a film company should do when they feel good about a product: Market it and let the people decide whether they want to see it or not,” says the 33-year-old rapper-actor, noting his displeasure with the campaigns for some of his earlier films.

”MGM gave it the same kind of marketing they would have given a Tom Cruise movie,” adds Barbershop producer George Tillman, who directed 2000’s $49 million-grossing drama Men of Honor. Of course, most Cruise movies don’t include hip-hop tie-ins like the video for Fabolous and P. Diddy’s ”Trade It All Part 2” from the Barbershop soundtrack (which debuted in Billboard’s R&B Top 10 and has sold 89,000 copies in its first three weeks).

And fans can prepare for a second combing. ”We’re very hopeful about doing a sequel,” says MGM vice chairman/COO Chris McGurk. ”This is one of those properties you can do a lot of things with. Maybe a TV show — maybe even a stage play.” Perhaps Cube should clear a couple of gold records off his mantel to make room for a Tony.

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