×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Black Mass’ Does Big Box Office in Boston

James “Whitey” Bulger ruled the streets of South Boston for decades.

He charmed little old ladies by carrying their groceries, intimidated petty hoods and buried his murder victims under highway overpasses and brilliantly manipulated the local FBI into letting him operated with impunity. In the process, Bulger became one of the most infamous criminals in history. Like Al Capone and Chicago, Bulger and his Winter Hill Gang are synonymous with the “City on a Hill.”

It’s no surprise then that “Black Mass,” a new Warner Bros. drama about the notorious gangster, did massive business in Boston and its environs when it debuted last weekend. Roughly 10% of the picture’s $23.4 million opening grosses came from the city’s theaters. Typically they account for 2.7% of a picture’s domestic total. Across Boston, “Black Mass” numbers over-indexed by 280%, the studio said.

Moreover, six of the top ten best performing theaters were in Boston, Warner Bros. reports. The three highest-grossing locations were all in Beantown and its surrounding environs — Loews Boston Common 19, AMC Assembly Row 12 in Somerville and Showcase Cinema in Revere.

“To have three of the top locations all be in Boston is definitely an outlier,” said Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros. distribution executive vice president. “We did well in the South and the Midwest, but we clearly over-indexed in the Northeast.”

The film also did well in New York, where it over-indexed by 25%, and Los Angeles, where it over indexed by 12%. New York had one of the top ten locations and Los Angeles had three of them. Reviews for the film and particularly for Johnny Depp’s performance as a silver-haired, dead-eyed Bulger have been strong, but the picture’s CinemaScore of B is mediocre. That may have something to do with a regional bias. CinemaScore tends to poll in the Midwest and the South, where the gritty story of Bulger’s tight relationship with FBI agent John Connolly did not resonate as intensely.

“Black Mass” drew an audience that was 56% male and 89% over the age of 25. Depp was the major reason that more than half the audience cited for buying tickets. The older nature of the crowd has Warner Bros. hopeful that ticket sales will remain strong in the coming weeks.

“Older audiences don’t tend to come out on opening day or opening weekend,” said Goldstein. “They find a movie over time.”

For Boston residents, Bulger, the murders he committed and the people he terrorized, aren’t distant history. His 2013 trial after nearly twenty years on the lam dredged up old wounds for the community and incited a media frenzy.

His story also inspired documentaries such as Joe Berlinger’s “Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger” and fictionalized accounts like Showtime’s “Brotherhood” and Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed.” But nothing has matched the profile of “Black Mass,” a $53 million production that was shot in the city and commands a cast that includes Joel Edgerton as Connolly and Benedict Cumberbatch as Bulger’s brother and Massachusetts State Senate President William Bulger.

“This has a very local resonance, so it’s not surprising the film would perform well in Boston,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Rentrak. “It’s a very contemporary story and it’s very specific to that city. Everyone who lives there knows who Whitey Bulger is.”

Of course that awareness has drawbacks. In a mixed review in the Boston Globe, Ty Burr had some geographically specific criticisms.

“Since when have the FBI’s offices been located in City Hall or the Mystic River Bridge been visible from the banks of the Neponset?” he asked.

If you get those references, chances are you know a lot about the story of Whitey Bulger already.

More Film

  • Olmo Teodoro Cuaron, Alfonso Cuaron and

    Alfonso Cuarón Tells Why His Scoreless 'Roma' Prompted an 'Inspired' Companion Album

    Back around the ‘90s, “music inspired by the film” albums got a bad name, as buyers tired of collections full of random recordings that clearly were inspired by nothing but the desire to use movie branding to launch a hit song. But Alfonso Cuarón, the director of “Roma,” is determined to find some artistic validity [...]

  • Berlin Film Festival 2019 Award Winners

    Berlin Film Festival 2019: Nadav Lapid's 'Synonyms' Wins Golden Bear

    Israeli director Nadav Lapid’s “Synonyms,” about a young Israeli man in Paris who has turned his back on his native country, won the Golden Bear at this year’s Berlinale on Saturday. The Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize went to François Ozon’s French drama “By the Grace of God,” a fact-based account of the Catholic Church [...]

  • Alita Battle Angel

    Box Office: 'Alita: Battle Angel,' 'Lego Movie 2' to Lead President's Day Weekend

    “Alita: Battle Angel” is holding a slim lead ahead of “Lego Movie 2’s” second frame with an estimated four-day take of $29.1 million from 3,790 North American locations. “Lego Movie 2: The Second Part,” meanwhile, is heading for about $25 million for a domestic tally of around $66 million. The two films lead the pack [...]

  • Marianne Rendon, Matt Smith, Ondi Timoner

    Robert Mapplethorpe Biopic Team Talks 'Fast and Furious' Filming

    Thursday night’s New York premiere of the Matt Smith-led biopic “Mapplethorpe” took place at Cinépolis Chelsea, just steps from the Chelsea Hotel where the late photographer Robert Mapplethorpe once lived — but director Ondi Timoner had no sense of that legacy when she first encountered him in a very different context. “When I was ten [...]

  • Bruno GanzSwiss Film Award in Geneva,

    Bruno Ganz, Star of 'Downfall' and 'Wings of Desire,' Dies at 77

    Bruno Ganz, the Swiss actor best known for dramatizing Adolf Hitler’s final days in 2004’s “Downfall,” has died. He was 77. Ganz died at his home in Zurich on Friday, his representatives told media outlets. The cause of death was reportedly colon cancer. In addition to delivering one of the definitive cinematic portrayals of Hitler, [...]

  • Steve Bannon appears in The Brink

    Sundance Film Review: Stephen K. Bannon in 'The Brink'

    Stephen K. Bannon drinks Kombucha (who knew?), the fermented tea beverage for health fanatics that tastes like…well, if they ever invented a soft drink called Germs, that’s what Kombucha tastes like. In “The Brink,” Alison Klayman’s fly-on-the-wall, rise-and-fall-and-rise-of-a-white-nationalist documentary, Bannon explains that he likes Kombucha because it gives him a lift; he drinks it for [...]

  • Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith

    Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith Dies at 78

    Walt Disney Archives founder Dave Smith, the historian who spent 40 years cataloging and preserving the company’s legacy of entertainment and innovation, died Friday in Burbank, Calif. He was 78. Smith served as Disney’s chief archivist from 1970 to 2010. He was named a Disney Legend in 2007 and served as a consultant to the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content