Well, actually the statue, with its portrait of the pugilist flinging his hands triumphantly in the air, was created for a scene in “Rocky III” and donated to Philadelphia by Sylvester Stallone, but at this point it has become such a symbol of the city’s working class spirit that its origins are almost superfluous.
That close bond between city and subject played out at the box office this weekend with the debut of “Creed,” which finds Balboa coaching the illegitimate son (Michael B. Jordan) of his former nemesis Apollo Creed. The picture, which took in an outstanding $42.6 million over its first five days in theaters, is over-indexing in Philadelphia by a massive 72%.
“Philadelphia is on fire and it has been since opening day,” said Jeff Goldstein, a distribution executive vice president at Warner Bros., the studio that is distributing the film.
Two of the top five best-performing theaters, AMC Neshaminy and the AMC Cherry Hill, are from the Philadelphia area. Another local theater, Regal Riverview Plaza, cracked the top ten list of highest-grossing theaters. On most films, those lists are dominated by locations in New York and Los Angeles, Goldstein said.
“Creed” is doing well in those cities and is also performing strongly in major metropolitan areas like Chicago, Atlanta and Houston, playing particularly well in communities with large Hispanic and African-American presences.
It’s not uncommon for films to do well in the places where they are set. For instance, both “Spotlight” and “Black Mass,” two fall releases that play up their Boston backdrops, did very well in the city when they debuted.
In the case of “Creed,” Philadelphia is almost a supporting character. The film recreates that run up the steps, features local landmarks such as South Philly’s Italian Market and plays up the fictional Balboa’s status as a hometown hero.
“Philadelphia is a part of all of the film’s DNA, so it makes sense it would play well there,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with Rentrak. “When the heart of the movie is a certain geographical location, it usually does well there.”