Anti-abortion film 'Unplanned' stuns with $6.1M opening despite TV and twitter blockade
The PureFlix feature had the second best opening since 'God’s Not Dead 2', which made $7.6M for the faith-based studio’s self-distributed titles
PureFlix's anti-abortion feature 'Unplanned', which was given an 'R' rating by the MPAA, had the second-best opening for the studio's self-distributed titles after 'God's Not Dead 2', making a staggering $6.1M opening at 1,059 theaters across the country. What makes this a feat for the producers is that almost all mainstream cable networks shut down its TV spots and their Twitter account was frozen for at least two to three hours yesterday, according to a Deadline report.
While the achievement may not be impressive by major studio standards, there was enough reason to celebrate for the indie label which produced the $5M-$6M with co-financer Mike Lindell (the inventor of MyPillow), especially considering the controversy the movie battled.
There hasn't been an R-rated, faith-based movie since Mel Gibson's 'The Passion of the Christ', which was released in 2004. While such movies usually do two to three times their domestic box office in TV and home ancillaries, it wouldn't be surprising if 'Unplanned' legs out considering it's Lent. 'God's Not Dead' had a $9.2M opening and ultimately raked in a final domestic total of $60.7M.
Unplanned is based on the true story of Abby Johnson, one of the youngest Planned Parenthood directors in the US.
The movie, written and directed by Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon, revisits how Johnson was once asked to assist in an abortion at thirteen weeks gestation — a moment of reckoning which led to her resignation and she eventually became a pro-life activist.
The faith-based community of Evangelical pastors along with the Roman Catholic community played a major role in promoting the film to their peers, resulting in prebooked sales of nearly $1.5M prior to the movie's release. Furthermore, the real-life Johnson was also out there promoting and propping the controversial film.
One can easily say that the controversy surrounding 'Unplanned' has been the best thing for the film, considering the publicity it garnered after news broke about its TV spots being rejected by most cable networks like Lifetime, Travel Channel, and Food Network, aside from its MPAA rating.
Meanwhile, Fox News recognized the void became a big supporter of the film, running several segments on it. The movie garnered national attention last year when lead actress Ashley Bratcher revealed that she was born after her mother had first scheduled an abortion and changed her mind at the last moment.
Apart from evangelists and faith-based channels doing their best to promote the film, several Christian radio stations spoke about the film lead by KLOVE's example. The successful opening is now being touted as a real grassroots win in marketing despite rejections from several mainstream agencies.
Actress Alyssa Milano, a far left advocate, had urged Hollywood to boycott the TV production in Georgia earlier this week over "The Heartbeat Bill" — the strictest state abortion law which is currently on the desk of Governor Brian Kemp. In retaliation, 'Unplanned' actress Bratcher rebutted back to Milano, emphasizing how her "life was spared on an abortion table."
Speaking to Deadline, PureFlix CEO Michael Scott responded to 'Unplanned's Twitter handle being shut down yesterday. He said that while "these things happen" when there's political content in a film, he noted that the incident had generated significant word-of-mouth publicity.
"We are very happy for the success of this film," Scott said in a statement. "To bring the story of Abby Johnson to audiences and have them show up in such large numbers shows how the topic of abortion is so important to bring to audiences. We hope that those on both sides of the debate will see 'Unplanned' and begin to have their own dialogue. This film can be that spark to bring more hearts and minds to understanding the value of life.”